Welcome

Welcome to my blog. The purpose here is simple: to chronicle my thoughts, actions, plans, and goals in getting healthy in the year 2012. Feel free to look around and offer encouragement or suggestions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Badges of Honor?

I'm talking stretch marks. I haven't seen any in a long while. In fact, the last time I remember noticing them was when I lost a little weight a few years back (two full time jobs will do that for you). I did a little research and it seems that there are various causes of stretch marks: pregnancy, severe hormonal changes (steroid use seemed to be mentioned most often), rapid weight gain, generally being a teenager, and excessive and rapid weight loss. Most stretch marks seem to be caused by getting too big too fast and are described as angry red or purple marks that eventually fade to a paler, fleshier color. I don't think that's me. My stretch marks have always been stealthy, but then there was nothing fast about my weight gain. Thinking back, I've never noticed them except when my weight happened to dip a little. I think I fall under the rapid weight loss category. My theory, which may be way off base as I'm not a medical professional, is that the dermis of my skin has been gradually stretched over the years, which would explain the lack angry red/purple marks. Now, as I'm losing weight and slimming down, the dermis is collapsing revealing the damage that has been done.Think silly putty. We've all played with it. Do you remember the first time you played with silly putty and you tried to stretch it as far as you could as fast as you could? Do you remember tearing it in half that way? I do. But if you worked it slowly, pulling a piece here and tugging a piece there, before you knew it you had a big, flat, nearly translucent disc of silly putty bigger than your head. And it took some work to get all that flimsy ... whatever silly putty is made of back into its egg.

Unfortunately my skin isn't ever going back in the egg. Stretch marks, it seems, have no really effective treatment. Even worse, the deeper and more severe the stretch marks, the less effective the treatments get. I started this whole thing because I happened to see my bare tummy in the mirror and it is riddled with the suckers. Some are small, some are really long, and some look almost wrinkly because they've collapsed so much. Luckily, they are all really pale so unless you are standing right next to me or are intently looking for them you may miss them. Plus, it isn't as if I plan to show a whole heck of a lot of my bare skin to the general public anyway. I had dreams of maybe one day slimming down enough to contemplate a bikini. I've always wanted to wear one, but lacked the confidence when I was small enough to pull it off. I had enough sense to realize when I couldn't (which I wish some other women would gain but that is a whole different subject). Even now I have to settle with the fact that if I manage to get to a reasonable bikini size there will be the stretch marks to consider. As I see it I can view my stretch marks two ways. I could lament them and feel something close to horrified that my skin will never again be perfect OR I can be proud of them and rejoice because they represent a HUGE accomplishment. I choose pride and joy over shame and horror. So what if I'm streaky. I'll be a hot streaky mess, and proud of it! Perfection is boring anyway.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I Don't Want

SO I go to Planet Fitness, which is supposed to be the judgement free zone, but sometimes I can't help it. Today was one of those days. I was working on my legs back on the weight machines when this woman walked by who, honest to goodness looked like a man in drag. It wasn't that her face was particularly masculine...but her body was. I didn't really help that she also was way too tan...you know the kind that makes your skin look like wrinkled leather...and her hair was 1985 bleach blonde. The whole look was unfortunate. Before I could stop myself I thought, "I hope I never ever look like that." Then I felt bad, you know, for judging. The thing is I've always had this fear of looking masculine. When I was a kid and my mom made me get my hair cut really short (in a super cute style I was too young and impatient to maintain) I cried because I thought I looked like a boy. Yes, even with my super big boobs I still have this fear to this very day. It is a big part of the reason I have, until now, avoided weight lifting of any kind. In my mind weights cause big muscles. Big muscles are for boys. I even had the thought today as I was trying to figure out how heavy I wanted to set the machines that I'd rather go too light and get less of a workout than go too heavy and get bulky. I guess I worry that I won't know when enough is enough...particularly since I can't see any muscle development because I'm still too fat to see changes in muscle tone. I actually had a nightmare that I was looking in a mirror and my fat melted off of me and I had a man's body underneath (with boobs). It was scary. Maybe I can ease my mind with a little more research on weights and women. There has to be some out there somewhere.

It never helps that when I'm back in the weights area, which I can admit to being fairly intimidated by, there are some men that tend to look at the women like the creature feature on Animal Planet. It's like the thought that a woman might want to improve her muscle tone never occurred to them. Depending on what you do, you may get looked at like you have three heads. A woman on the adductor machines (the thigh squeezy ones) doesn't get a second glance. A woman on the fly machine...what? When did they let women on those? Working on abs? No problem. Triceps, though will get you a double take. I'd find it funny if it wasn't so irritating.

On a positive note I finally saw a change on the scale after almost a month of no difference. I weighed 284 Sunday morning! Hopefully with my plan to be very conscious of my eating habits this week I can continue the trend. I think it's safe to say I probably won't hit my 10 pound goal for this month, being as I didn't see any change for half the month, but I'll take any progress I can get. I worked really hard today. I pushed myself to do an entire extra set of reps at the gym, I worked out at a steady and challenging pace on the Arc Trainers, then I came home and really pushed with my TurboFire workout. I feel like I hit a new level of effort, at least with that particular video. Overall, today, I'm very satisfied with my workout. And now I need some sleep because I wore myself out.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Good Pain

So I confess to being an eavesdropper. I'm bad about it...enough so that I pick up people's conversations as I walk past on my way from one place to another. As I was leaving the gym this morning I heard a pair of ladies complaining of muscle soreness to one of the gym staff. See, my gym now offers "classes" where two or more people are guided through their exercise goals by a coach. He'll show you which machines to get on, how to properly operate them, and how long and intensely you need to work in order to meet your goals. These two ladies were, apparently, pushed beyond their liking. The one said she hated that she could barely move the next day because she was in so much pain. In response, the coach replied, "Yeah, but it's a good pain." Really? I accept a small amount of nagging soreness as a necessary evil, but when it gets to the point that range of motion is impeded I find that that to be a problem. Pain is your body's way of letting you know something isn't right. This includes pushing yourself too hard. Don't get me wrong, the human body is incredibly resilient. It forgives a lot of abuse, but it also has limits. If you push too far too fast you can really hurt yourself. It bothers me more than a little that a supposed health professional was counseling people to ignore those signs of over exertion.

Speaking of sore muscles, I finally started working regularly on the weight machinery at the gym. I decided to split myself into 3 sections: legs, arms, and core (i.e. back and abs). I work one section every other day. It's difficult trying to plan around my TurboFire strength training so I'm not punishing myself more than necessary. I'm still working out kinks in the system. So far, my prediction that I would be sore every day has come to fruition. Some days are worse than others, but something always hurts. I'm trying hard not to let that deter me. I found this ointment called Tiger Balm that has been a godsend. Sure it smells like camphor and menthol, but it works so you won't hear me complain. It has even worked wonders on my knees.

Actually, I've been very impressed with my knees. They've always given me trouble, even before I was overweight. I just won the genetic lottery that way. They haven't given me as much trouble as I was expecting. TurboFire features a lot of lunging. I admit to only going halfway with most of it, but it seems the more I'm working my knees the better they're holding up. Every now and then, though, they like to remind me they will never be 100%, but those days are coming fewer and farther between. Go me!

Ok, one more thing and then I'm done. I'm experiencing what you call a plateau. I'm stuck bouncing between 288 and 290. I'm not mentally where I need to be so I've been eating terribly and I acknowledge this. My coworker and I are going to try to jump start ourselves out of this rut next week by cutting out all starches. We're going in together and cooking for two all week to help ensure we both do right. Personally, I'm starting today. I'm hoping it will really help get me back in the zone. It gets discouraging to look at the same numbers on the scale for like three weeks straight. Meanwhile, everyone keeps telling me how good I look, but I feel fatter than ever, which only contributes to the backsliding. I can't wait to say goodbye to 290.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Variability of "Bad"

I hate that food has, more often than not, been relegated into one of two categories: good or bad. Everyone has an opinion on what is "good" food and what is "bad" food, and everyone's opinion differs. It makes it difficult to share with people my goals sometimes, because everyone seems to want to monitor what I eat and lecture me on what I shouldn't be eating. Here's my opinion: as long as it is as natural as possible, it's all good in small doses. Do I eat crap sometimes? Yes. Yes, I do. I refuse to feel guilty about it. I am very conscious of my portion sizes and I compensate for eating something that is less than nutritious by either intensifying my workout or eating extra great over the next 24 hours. A big one people seem to take issue with is butter. I've heard "you use butter???" more than once. I use butter, not only because I prefer the taste, but also because it has less artificial crud in it. Seriously, look at the back of a margarine box just once and then look at the ingredient listing for butter. While margarine has a long, complicated list that is very difficult to pronounce, butter has two ingredients: sweet cream and salt. Is butter a significant source of saturated fats? Sure. Does that mean exchanging a natural solution for a complicated chemical one constitutes a healthful decision? Not so much. In general, when it pertains to ingredient listings I am of the opinion that simpler is better. I have taken to reading the ingredient listing on anything I purchase that isn't in a raw state (by that I mean it's already assembled in some form or fashion) and I've put a lot of things I previously enjoyed back on the shelf. I'll go with whatever has the simplest ingredients, even if it costs a little more. I feel better for it. It could just be that I have convinced myself that consuming a bunch of laboratory accidents couldn't possibly be good for you and I'm experiencing some kind of nutritional placebo effect. Even if that is the case, I'll take it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

March in Summary

It took me a while to get back and I'm sorry. I have been very very disconnected from everyone lately. I'm not certain what is going on with that, but I'll try to be better. Anyway.

March was a little disappointing in its passing. I gained 2 pounds, rounding out the month at 290.2 for a total weight loss of 25 pounds since I began. That's not bad, mind you, it just wasn't my goal of 285. I tried, too, working my butt off both in the gym and with my TurboFire. I spent the last week of March really watching my food intake. Still it wasn't enough and not only did those final three pounds NOT go away, but two more joined them. It seems my changes are coming just in time. On the positive end, my body fat percentage has come down by 2.5% since February, which is awesome and might account for the weight gain, or at least some of it. I know that muscle is denser than fat, so adding just a little bit of muscle shows on the scale in the same way a lot of fat would. I'll watch the scale and if my weight gain is due to muscle gain, I should see big drops eventually. This is because I know that more muscle burns fat faster than just cardio work.

So we're in April. This month through June I am supposed to make several changes including: adding 30 minutes of weight training to my cardio daily, cutting my food portions by 1/4, adding 1 liter of water to my daily intake, and making the switch to whole grains. So far I'm floundering a little in trying to figure how to cut my portions. Do I load my plate as I normally would and then put some back? I've been trying to put a little less on my plate to begin with, but then how do I know I've reduced by a quarter? Also, do I cut down on everything, or maintain the same amount of, say, veggies and reduce, say, grains? I am also struggling to incorporate 2 liters of water. This is, interestingly, the daily suggested amount of water. It is a lot of water. I see why most Americans don't get this in. It is hard to incorporate it into my daily schedule. I imagine this will just be a matter of convenient placing. Previously, I've had my water in my kitchen fridge and I drank it mostly when I was cooking. I had the idea of putting one of my daily liters upstairs where I can get to it easily while I'm resting. I'm also going to have to figure out how to get my water at work, which is hard because we aren't allowed to have food or drink in our work area and we also spend several hours at a time in the lab with no chance to come out. Also, you can't leave things at work because they routinely "clean out" the cafeteria, which really just means they throw out things that have been sitting. As for adding the weight work, I just haven't done it. I have a meeting today at 2, so rather than hitting the gym and TurboFiring right after work I opted to get some rest so I'm not a zombie at my meeting. My plan is to go to the gym after at about 3:30. I'm a little intimidated by the weight machines, but I plan to go back there and tackle them. I'm breaking up the weight training into body regions and doing a different region each time. Today I think legs.