Saturday, October 29, 2011

{Fitness} Recognizing Why We Eat

This past month of diet change and exercise has been eye opening for me. Not only have I discovered that I like (what????!?!?!) exercise (once I let go of pressure and found the things I enjoy), but also I discovered that my eating habits are not solely hunger-based.

Finding My "Tell"

Last month I was perusing a website and found this post about finding your "tell"--the thing you do outwardly that shows inner turmoil. As I read the post I recognized some of the things that I do when I'm upset--snuggle under covers, watch TV instead of doing my chores, and eating.

The past month has been an interesting test of that, because watching my calories has made me stop to think every time I reach for a snack. And I noticed in the first week that when something went wrong in my day, I immediately thought of grabbing a handful of chocolate chips. Baby woke up early from nap and is screaming for no reason? Man, I need a pudding cup. You see where this is going?

A sudden chocolate craving is one of my "tells." It actually freaked me out a little bit, because instead of dealing with the problem, assessing the situation and how to deal with it, I added this weird crutch of food-will-make-me-feel-better. Instead of thinking that I should make myself feel better by focusing, planning, or accepting whatever was happening.

Other Reasons I Eat

So then I started thinking about other reasons that I eat:

  • Boredom
  • Socializing/peer pressure
  • Relaxation
  • Because I just like food
  • Oh, and hunger.
A couple of these are okay on occasion (like socializing at a baby shower or whatever), but should I really be eating because I'm bored? Or stressed?

I just found it interesting that there were so many reasons other than hunger that I strolled my little tushka over to the fridge.

Food for thought. (...get it? Sorry. That was a bad one. :p)

Friday, October 28, 2011

{Fitness} Tools: Scaling Back

Steve and I used to eat pizza while we watched the Biggest Loser. Terrible. It was a "healthy" pizza. But still. And many, many times while they were cooking in the kitchen I watched them weigh food on a scale thinking WHAT a pain in the butt! I would NEVER weigh my food!

I've got to learn not to say I will never do things that are good for me. Because I end up eating crow.

Anyway I finally realized that I was going to have to weigh my food if I didn't want to eat solely pre-packaged calorie-labeled stuff, so the kids and I made a pilgrimage to Macy*s to use the last of a gift card I had and I picked up a shiny silver food scale. (It is not the pretty and expensive one pictured above. That is the one I wanted, but I got the one I could get for free-with-my-giftcard instead. It is not cute enough to share a picture of it.)

The Verdict

Thumbs up.

It is a little more work, yes, but I am getting used to it now. It has become part of the cooking routine, and it is pretty fast. (It doesn't take as long as that 1-minute-to-weigh-a-human Biggest Loser scale. That thing drives me crazy.) It has made calorie counting way easier and more intuitive.

And the BEST PART is that I was over-estimating some things. A chicken breast I thought would weigh like 6oz, but it is only 3! And 1oz of cheese is enough to make a nicely cheesed grilled cheese sandwich. So that means I can eat more than I thought I could, and that is a big relief.

Because I love eating.

...wait, did I already mention that? Like 12 times?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

{Food} Summer Salad, 248 Cal

Summer Salad (even though it is Fall) 248 Calories

7 oz raw spinach
1 oz strawberries (about 3-4, cut up)
2T Black River Blue Cheese crumbles
1 Jonagold apple
1T Ken's Light Poppyseed dressing

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

{Fitness} Why I'm Finally Calorie Counting

Okay, first of all, I'm not going to be talking about calories all the time. I do not like it when women obsess about "their" calories. So don't think we are going to be having real-life conversations about how many calories are in things for the rest of forever. I am still just figuring this all out. I would much rather talk about your baby, a book you're reading, how you scored a sweet deal on your super fly jeans, or whatever.

So this is just for the purposes of learning how calories feed our bodies energy and how weight loss happens. And I will get to that. But first let me show you WHY.

Why I'm Calorie Counting

So, before we had kids, I weighed 111 pounds. Right now I am swinging between 111 and 112, which is great post-10lb-second-baby. That is in the healthy BMI range for my height (crazy, crazy short: 4'10") but it is at the upper end of healthy. I want to be more in the middle.

Also, I may have gotten down to my pre-both-pregnancies weight, but I have NOT gotten back to that body type. I know that my weight distribution has forever changed. But I would like to NOT look pregnant when I'm not sucking it in. So here, at long last, are those before pictures the hubs was teasing me about because I don't look happy. I think I was just focused on trying to get the right angle so you could see the weird poochiness in all its glory.

9/30/11 - 113 lbs, no regular exercise

There it is. I am to embarrassed to show you the stomach itself, at least until I have a better "after" to show you. You're not missing out, though, I promise.

Anyway, that view in the mirror was my why. I decided it was worth the work.

Calories & Weight Loss

You probably already know this, but basically to lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you expend doing exercise and your daily activities. I've been learning healthy ways to do this, but I didn't start out doing a very good job.

Here are some basics:
  • Bodies need a baseline amount of calories just to function, that means your heart beating, breathing, all that stuff your body does even when you're sleeping, requires a certain amount of calories. This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and it is basically the number of calories your body would burn even if you stayed in bed all day. You can calculate it here or if you sign up for a calorie counting program, it will probably have a calculator there, too. I did mine at MyFitnessPal.
  • Burning more calories than you take in USUALLY means weight loss. If you take in 1700 calories, do 200 worth of exercise, and your BMR is 1500, you break even. Sweet! Your body will need to dip into its energy reserves (aka fat!) to fuel your body. But...
  • Taking in less calories than required by your BMR is STARVING. You don't want to do that, not only because starving is obviously unhealthy, but also because it is bad from a weight loss perspective. When your body goes into starvation mode, it freaks out and starts holding onto fat even harder, because it thinks you are in some crazy Hunger Games situation and have to forage for food and might die. So it is really important to get your baseline amount.
  • Calories aren't everything. Your body needs nutrients: vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, etc. to be healthy. So eating a bunch of low-calorie junk food isn't going to cut it. You need real food, healthy portion sizes, and reasonable calories.
Calorie counting has been a humbling--very, very humbling--experience. I love food. I look forward to eating; lunch alone while the kids nap is a big treat for me. So finding out how many calories are in the food I thought were healthy was really a blow. Cereal and milk? Surprising number of calories, when you realize how many "servings" is in a normal sized bowl of cereal.

How I'm Doing

I'm doing okay. My weight loss has kind of plateaued the past two weeks at about 111.75 lbs, but there could be numerous factors contributing to that including:

(1) not drinking enough water
(2) hormones (we love them, right?) and
(3) inconstant eating, especially on the weekends

I am, however, doing great at my 3x week gym goal, sometimes I even hit 4 times. And things there are getting easier, so I'm having to increase intensity to keep it challenging.

I'm also learning to estimate calories in my head, which is making my eating habits a little easier.

And I'm doing crunches. I hate them more than most any other exercise, but there was no way around it. Baby bellies don't disappear on their own.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

{Fitness} Falling off the Wagon

So I weighed myself on Monday, and I was up by 1/4 of a lb. Which was depressing after losing a pound a week the two weeks before. I could claim that it is my muscle mass growing, but I know that I wasn't stellar with my calories all weekend. We had Chipotle on Friday night, Saturday we road tripped out to Blue Ridge Parkway, and Sunday we had a picnic, and I just wanted to eat what I wanted to eat.

And this gal, who was my best friend during pregnancy and nursing, I have heartlessly abandoned the past couple of weeks, only picking her up to go to the gym. Seriously, I was drinking 8 cups a day easy for months, and suddenly I'm down to maybe 3.

The calorie counting thing is a straight shot to weight loss, but I have to admit, I miss my carb-and-dairy heavy diet. Yesterday I had a salad for lunch. Don't cry for me, Argentina. It was a good one at least. But still. I used to have a bagel an apple and some cheese, and I prefer that.

Anyway, though I did go up a teeny bit, I guess I didn't fall off the wagon completely. Because I did go to the gym four times and track my calorie intake enough that I was only taking in my "maintain weight" calories instead of my weight loss.

So I guess I'm sort of holding on to the tail end of the wagon for dear life.

But I'm not going to lie, it felt bad to see the scale go up.

And though I've been doing crunches 160 crunches (4 different styles, 2 sets of 20 each) after every workout, I still look pregnant (but squishier).

That said (or whined) I have noticed some cool things. For one thing, I am usually in pain at the gym, but I suddenly don't care. I have always cared about that. But now I almost feel separate from the pain. And another thing, I am actually noticing that I have to step up my game to keep things challenging. More crunches, more intensity on the cardio equipment. So I may not be getting skinnier right now, but at least I am getting stronger.

I think the hardest part sometimes is knowing that this is not a goal that is going to be over at the end of October; it is a lifestyle change. And though I know a lot of it will get easier and more intuitive, it is kind of exhausting to think about doing this for the rest of my life.

Friday, October 14, 2011

{Fitness} We Can Work it Out

Can we, really?

So far, yes.

I really don't know what it was, except, like I mentioned before, just being sick of letting myself fail. But I am driven. For the first time in my life exercise is part of my daily routine during the week. Here are some things that have helped:

I Work Out How I Work Out

What? Yes! I like going to classes with my friends, but I am never out the door with the kids in time to make it, or I am mean to them because I'm trying so hard to hurry. So that was too stressful. And I couldn't guess my calorie burn, so I wasn't working as hard as I could. So I do not do it.

I do not like running. Even though everybody else does. So I do not do that either.

What I do like is dropping my kids to play at the Y's childcare, which they love and get excited about, and having some time to myself on the cardio equipment, either reading a book or watching HGTV. That is what I love. It feels like a break. And they track my calories, and I now know what I can burn in 30 minutes, so if I'm not hitting my numbers, I know to work harder. And I like that, too.

So, that is what I do.

The only exception? Ab work. I hate ab work, but I had a 10lb baby in me, and I should really only weigh about 105-ish, which means a baby about 10% of my size. So I had to suck that one up, because my stomach will need some work if it is going to look non-pregnant ever again. ;)

I Make it Me Time

See above. Childcare. HGTV. Book. Yes.

I Embraced the "Pain" Thing

Um, working out? Yeah, it hurts. I am not a fan of pain. But that is too bad, because I've decided to exercise, and that is part of the deal.

I Track My Progress

Kids like sticker charts. I have a mental one. Gold star for going to the gym today, Jamie. You earned some extra calories, you can have dessert. Oh, and step on the scale. Wow. A lower number. Okay, so this must be working.

Makes it easier to keep going.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yay for You

This is just to say thank you for your comments so far--you guys are seriously so helpful and I really appreciate the new insights & the solidarity! :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

{Fitness} Checking In

So I have been calorie counting for about two weeks and it is, surprisingly, going pretty well.

And by "pretty well" I mean that I have been stressed out, overwhelmed, hungry, and extremely emotional, but I am figuring it out. Let me tell you about it, really quick. (Meaning I will ramble for a while and you can skim.)

The Number

Remember how I told you about MyFitnessPal? Well, it calculated the calories I need to take in to be healthy and lose weight. And since I'm small, it was a very, very small number. 1200 for the whole day. 1200. For the whole day! Snacks included!

1200 calories is not much. There was lots of dessert-skipping going on, and that was very sad. In fact, there was no dessert at all for about a week. Go ahead and ask the hubs how that made me feel. ;)

The Experience

Seriously, the first day I kept almost crying. I know that sounds maybe a little stupid, but I just felt like none of the foods I was eating that were low-calorie were making me feel full, and my pitiful 1200 calories were disappearing fast. And I love to eat.

After a couple of days I started shifting things around, eating more veggies as snacks, switching my breakfast from Life or Special K with 1% milk to Cheerios and non-fat milk, that kind of thing. Then I started seeing that I could save up calories so I could have a higher calorie dinner with the hubs who gets to eat--wait for it--2300 calories per day. Yes. Almost twice what I eat.

But last Tuesday, I saved a little too much. I ate so low-calorie during the day that, though I had a ton left by dinnertime, I was exhausted. I had a dinner of low-calorie soup (240 for the whole can) and a piece of toast to dip in it. We had two types of bread, and I chose the lower calorie one. It was gross. But the soup was pretty good, and I felt full, and I got to have a Snickers ice cream bar with my remaining calories.

The Sandwich

This is the lunch I had last Wednesday, after a little over a week of watching my calories. Two pieces of bread, some turkey, an piece of provolone, and thinly sliced apples, with the rest of the apples on the side. It was REALLY good! I loved it. But it took me a while to figure out that I could actually eat real food, and "use up" some calories during the day. I would not have eaten this last week because I would have thought that 100 calories per slice of bread wasn't worth it.

So this week has been better. No gross bread. Less crying. And I am getting more comfortable with being mindful of what I eat. No mindless snacking while I'm fixing the kids' meals. (A lot of times I get something halfway to my mouth, though, and then stop and put it back down.) I use a measuring cup for food portioning, and am now the proud owner of a kitchen scale. I log every bite online, and I am okay with that.

What I've Learned So Far

Okay, so it has been almost two weeks. This week I am feeling more full on less calories (I can tell you how now, if you care). I have still had some crying jags, but I am feeling a little more in control which--unfortunately--is important to me. I have averaged 4 trips per week to the gym, and about 1lb per week of weight loss.

When I stepped on the scale for my weekly weigh in, I was depressed. I honestly didn't think that even with all that work any of this would melt off. But a pound a week. That is pretty good. And thank goodness because reigning in my diet has been crazy hard.

What's Left to Learn

Oh. Lots of things. I need to work on my weekends, when date nights or evenings with friends lead to me blowing my calorie count BIG TIME. I need to find more options for eating, because I love to eat (did I mention that?). I need to make sure I am taking a vitamin, and that I am eating a variety of healthy things, not just the things I know are calorie-cheap. So I'll be working on that. And preparing myself for the holidays, because that is basically like running a calorie-counting 10k while bricks of fudge are being thrown at your mouth. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

{Fitness} Tools:

As a teenager I swore never to count calories. But I guess you can see now how well that is going for me. But really, it sounds like a pain in the BUTT to try to figure out how many calories you need, how many you should take in if you want to be healthy but losing weight, and then track your daily intake of food. And I bet it was a pain before the internet.

MyFitnessPal: Dumb Name, Good Tool

When the hubs got his fabu new iPod Touch he got addicted to downloading free apps. Though he doesn't need to lose weight, he was intrigued by the fitness apps and found one called MyFitnessPal, which also happens to be a website (for those of us who aren't yet toting around one of those shiny silver pieces of machinery, but have at least entered the internet age).

Here's a peak at what my food log there looks like:

About a week ago I logged in, entered my stats (age, height, weight) and my weight loss goal, and it spit out a calories-per-day goal for me to follow. I actually really love it, and here's why:

  1. It has a database of foods already set up so I don't have to look up the nutrition facts of every food I eat. It also saves foods I eat a lot so I can just click and add to track my meals. You can also add your own recipes of meals you eat or enter new foods with their nutrition facts if they don't show up.
  2. It does the adding and subtracting for me so I don't have to add and subtract in my head, which I should never do, I am terrible at it.
  3. It focuses on more than calories, showing if I go over or under my ideal protein and fat intakes, too.
  4. It calculates extra calories for exercise and has a database of exercises so I can just look up what I did and get an estimate. Or if I do a machine at the gym, I can just enter in the calories I burned.

It also has space to track your water intake, and gives you an estimate of when you'll reach your weight loss goals. I'm not really into forums, but they have those, too, which I'm sure a lot of people would find helpful.

So the calorie counting thing has actually been pretty straightforward with this. It's the actual eating part that has been hard.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fitness Goals

I have never been good at "fitness." I don't like running, or really very many exercises, or being uncomfortable, or having to take more than one shower a day because I've just been to the gym. On the other hand I love dairy products, chocolate, avocado-bacon-cheeseburgers, and that delicious caloric bomb, the Chipotle burrito.

Maybe I look okay (I'm not going to lie, though, I am usually "sucking it in") but I have never been able to stand in front of the mirror and feel really proud of my body: how it looks, feels, and works. Because I have never done a super great job taking care of it. (Yep, those are a pair of "His & Hers" burritos about the size of our second-born. Also, looks like its time to wipe down those invisible-to-the-naked-eye-but-awkward-on-camera cup-rings. Clearly we haven't hit that housekeeping goal yet.)

So for October I'm focusing on getting healthy. This is going to start with slimming down--my baby boy is almost 10 months old, we're done breastfeeding, and there are no more excuses for this post-baby ponch to be hanging around. Unfortunately, it doesn't want to just melt away on its own.

But aside from slimming down, I want to learn how to eat better, healthier foods on a daily basis: what to substitute to lower calories and fat, what kinds healthy fats, proteins, etc. I need for my body to be not just functional, but nourished. (I'll probably have to take another month somewhere to focus on nutrition alone, but I'm going to get started now.) I want to be trim, but eat real (not processed, "lite," aspartame filled) foods.

I'm not sure what has finally spurred me on except that this year I just feel tired of failing. Of letting myself fail. Of letting that be okay. The other day I just jumped on the bandwagon, and I'm holding onto that thing for dear life.

So here are the goals, bullet-list style. (I know we all love a good bullet list...)
  • Learn how food fuels the body (so I know I am eating healthier, not just cutting calories)
  • Get to a more mid-range BMI (I'm on the heavier-end of healthy, I'd like more wiggle room, so this means getting down to about 105-ish lbs... Remember I am VERY short, so this is an okay weight.)
  • Tighten up the floppy post-second-baby-belly
  • Go to the gym at least 3x per week
  • Learn to eat well & feel full on less calories
  • Eat real, healthy foods (avoiding overly processed foods for most meals)
If you have insight on any of these things I really want to talk to/email you and pick your brain, so let me know!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October is Fitness Month :)

Okay, friends. I am steadily working away at little bits of each goal, but this month my big focus is going to be on fitness.

I am 10 months post-partum and I still look a little bit pregnant in the belly region... Except more saggy. Thank you in advance for telling me I don't look pregnant, but trust me, I am sucking it in. ;) In fact, I took a few photos of myself from the side to prove it, but Steve confessed to me last night that he laughed when he found them because I look so before-photo-depressed in them. He told me, "Those are NOT pictures of my wife" and thanked me for being more cheerful in real life. Haha. I took that as a compliment. So I will take some different, less emo photos to share as my "before" I guess.

Anyway, I'm planning to get myself in gear (and to the gym), focus on healthy eating, and hopefully feel healthier and more energized. If you're interested in joining me, or have any tips for getting started I hope you'll email me and/or leave me some love in the comments!