Thursday, November 6, 2014

Perfection Not Required

The ironic thing about this post is that I started writing it a couple of months ago and never made it very far because I couldn't seem to say what I want in just the right way.

A problem I've often encountered in my life is wanting to do everything perfectly. In some ways this can be a positive because I work really hard and do my best consistently when I commit to doing something. In other ways it can be a negative when it holds you back, because you think you can't do it right.
In years past, I would realize areas I need to make changes or improvements, but not do them because I didn't feel I had it in me to do it "perfectly". It was a "what's the point" mindset.
For example: I've been a diet soda junkie for years. I know that drinking water is important and soda is horrible, but there have been times I've said to myself "screw it" and guzzled diet soda as my primary beverage day after day and not made an effort to drink enough water because I couldn't bring myself to quit the soda, so "what's the point?" I'd tell myself.

The perfectionist mindset can lead you to know you should drink water and not diet soda, but because you can't seem to quit the soda, you don't even try and just drink soda all day. It can make you not eat vegetables at all some days because you know you're not going to get in enough servings. It can make you not work out at all because you're only going to have time for 20-30 minutes and not a full hour, so you say to yourself "what's the point" and don't do anything.

This might seem obvious to you guys, but in case you struggle with this mindset at times too, I'll say it anyway: Something is better than nothing!! You don't need to be perfect to try. If you love soda and can't seem to quit it, you are still going to be better and healthier if you also make yourself drink plenty of water. If you're pressed for time, a 20 minute workout still helps your body more than a days of inactivity. If you can't start your day without a mocha latte, or make it through the day without a small bag of chips, you're still going to reap the benefits of making sure you get plenty of lean protein and fresh vegetables and fruits.

Instead of focusing on what you can't do, focus on what you can do. It can really lead to big changes if you change your focus like that. Whatever your personal struggles might be, if it feels too hard and too overwhelming to start changing yourself at all, start looking for the little things that you CAN do! Starting a running program might feel impossibly difficult, but can you commit to taking a daily 20 minute walk? Going to the gym and lifting weights to build muscle might not be something you can do, but maybe you can do a few push-ups, sit-ups, and squats in your living room. Maybe you're not ready to change all the not-so-healthy foods that you eat, but you can make a change by committing to eat a serving of vegetables to start each meal and focus on healthy portion sizes. Or you can keep one fun/comfort food meal every day, but focus on making the other two meals really healthy.

If you start focusing on the little things that you CAN do, odds are pretty good that they'll eventually add up to big changes over time! You might just find yourself drinking 96 ounces of water a day, primarily eating meals that are lean protein with a big serving of veggies. You might find that your 20 minute walk has evolved into 45 minutes of running. And if a few little things is all it ever amounts to?  Well guess what? You're still going to be a little bit healthier for it! So start today by finding something healthy you can do for yourself, you won't regret it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

9/7-9/13 Saturday Summary

This week concludes with a 4.6 pound loss! I also took progress pictures on Tuesday, and could really see a difference from the side view, so a non-scale victory as well. I started feeling sick on Thursday and it was worse on Friday, so my diet and exercise are off a bit on those days.
Here's the recap:

- Sunday: Reward day, about 2000 calories
- Monday: Low carb, 1170 calories
- Tuesday: Low carb, 1220 calories
- Wednesday: High carb, 1390 calories
- Thursday: Low carb, 1175 calories
- Friday: SHOULD have been low carb. Instead I was feeling too sick to eat, what I did make myself eat didn't fit any type of day and I can't in around 850 calories.
- Saturday: High carb: 1425 calories

You might notice my calories are a bit low some days. I'm assuming my ability to eyeball 4oz portions of meat is likely imperfect and I almost certainly get an amount of extra calories daily and am actually hitting my minimum numbers. 

- Sunday: 5 mile run
- Monday: 3 miles AM/Total synergistics PM
- Tuesday: 4 miles AM/Agility X PM
- Wednesday: 3 miles AM/X3 Yoga PM
- Thursday: 3 miles
- Friday: No workout
- Saturday: Still feeling a little off, so NO official workout again today. I did walk with my kids to downtown to look at a sidewalk chalk event and got in a couple of easy miles.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Physical fitness is a huge part of overall health. It might make you sore, especially when you're a beginner or changing up your workouts, but before long it makes your body feel better and it's good for your mental health too. Trying to change your life to become healthier without incorporating a physical fitness plan is really missing an important piece of the puzzle. If weight loss is your goal, you might've heard that a good diet is the most important aspect, which is true. Yes you can lose weight through diet alone, but to skip a physical fitness plan is to miss out. Not only will exercise burn calories so you lose weight faster, it'll build muscle to help your body burn more calories all the time. And I'm sure we've all heard about the many health benefits from the heart to the bones to reducing cancer risk to improving mental health. So many reasons to exercise!

So now you know that you should exercise, what do you do? There are SO many great options out there, the best thing is to find something you can enjoy and go with that. If you're really out of shape and everything is difficult and unenjoyable, pick something simple like walking to begin. Ideally you want to work hard enough to get your heart rate and breathing up for at least thirty minutes at least five days per week. If walking that long is too much right now, start with ten minutes and work your way up from there. If you push yourself past what's comfortable just a bit and stick with it, you'll be surprised how soon you'll be able walk at a quick pace for an entire hour!

So what is my own personal fitness plan? First some history. I've been a regular runner (who goes through occasional periods of not running very frequently) for well over a decade. Although it's been awhile, I've even run marathons in the past. After a long running streak, last year I went through a not-much-running phase and started doing Zumba. I'm not at all coordinated nor do I  possess any dance ability, but trust me when I say it's fun. I was also doing water aerobics and spending time on the elliptical during this phase. Are you noticing anything yet? Yeah, I'm all cardio, no strength. I have known I should and occasionally would try to work on building muscle, however it's hard for me and I haven't been good at sticking with it. So in May of this year I finally really committed to working on building my strength and bought the P90X3 program and started literally the day it arrived in the mail. Ninety days later and I'd certainly made great improvements to my overall strength! At that point, I took a break for a couple of weeks and then set and started my next goal which is where I'm at currently: another ninety days of P90X3 PLUS running at least three miles at least five days per week. I wanted to continue building my strength and get back into decent running shape. I'm twenty-five days into my new challenge and it's going great! It feels good to push yourself and see what you're physically capable of doing.

Does everyone need to do two workouts per day? No! That's just where I'm at right now. I have a long history of being active, so this is what I need to do to challenge myself and help boost my weight loss efforts. You need to find your own challenge and start setting personal goals. If you're a beginner, that goal might be to work up to waking a few miles daily. Maybe you can already walk a good distance, so your challenge could be to add in some short running intervals to your walks and gradually run more.
If walking and running aren't your thing, there are so many different home fitness workout DVDs you can buy. Or you can join a gym and try the fitness equipment there. Also signing up for a group class can be a really fun way to exercise.
The bottom line is to find something to do and get moving!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

So What IS Carb Cycling?

The easy way to answer that is to post this link.

Way back when I was first diagnosed with all of my hormonal/metabolic issues, the doctor advised a low carb diet. However, I never followed this advice. At this time, I was in my vegetarian diet years and an all carb diet was more likely! A way of eating that I could barely stand for a day was nothing I could do long term, so I never tried to do it. Even now, over a decade later, with my diet mainly consisting of lean protein, veggies, fruits, and raw nuts, low carb was still nothing I was willing to do. I need my rice and potatoes!
The day I clicked the above link and read about carb cycling, I immediately thought "This makes so much sense! I can do this" And I started the next day, a Friday. (I'm not a wait til Monday type, I learned years ago that if you're willing to wait til Monday, the next month, New Year, etc you are unlikely really ready to do it)

The basics of carb cycling are: you eat five small meals a day spaced three hours apart. You eat a protein with every single meal. You eat a carb with your breakfast every single day. The other four meals of the day, you alternate days doing low carb or high carb (although that's deceiving, it's truly small controlled amounts of carbs on high carb days). Once a week you have a reward day where you eat however you want to eat and consume about 1000 extra calories.
Although you don't have to count or track anything, you can use the hand portions for a guide, generally a low carb day will be about 1200 calories (1500 for a man, his hands are bigger) and a high carb day will be about 1500 calories (1800 for a man)

All of this alternating between low and high carb, varying the daily calories, and especially the many extra calories of reward day keep your body from adjusting to the eating plan and lowering your metabolism. We've almost all experienced or heard of the dreaded "plateau" where a person trying to lose weight is still doing everything right yet they stop losing. That's because our bodies don't know we live in the age of too much food and still tries to hold onto fat for that potential time of famine. So when you reduce calories to lose, eventually your body lowers the metabolism to try to keep holding onto your fat. That's what really clicked about this program for me. I know much of my issues are from my thyroid, but I also have years of calorie restriction behind me and I believe that was also contributing to my sluggish metabolism. Four weeks into this plan and I was down fifteen pounds! With my old ways, I'd have been lucky to lose four pounds in four weeks.

I find tracking what I eat and the specific number of carbs and calories very helpful. I do 1200 calories on low carb days, and only 40-50 grams of carbs, the majority of those at breakfast (remember carbs with breakfast everyday). I do 1500 calories on high carb days, and 120-150 grams of carbs (25-30 carbs at each meal, always balanced with a protein). On reward day, I aim for about 2200 calories and don't worry about hpw many grams of carbs and protein.
Now if all those numbers overwhelm you, use the hand portions. A portion of protein is the size of your palm. A carb portion is a small, tight fist. Low carb veggies as much as you want at as many meals possible, two big loose fists worth for a serving.

So those are the basics. They go into more details about fats and sauces, but I don't have a problem with over consuming those, so I don't worry about them at this point (for those who do need to monitor, a fat portion is the size of your thumb, sauces to flavor should be about two finger widths)
If you read this and think this is the plan for you, go for it! Don't waste another day being stuck with a body that doesn't make you feel good. If you read this and think it's not the plan for you, keep looking! No one thing is right for everyone, but never quit trying and searching for your own solutions.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No Fad Diets, Supplements, Shakes, or Any Other Gimmicks Required!


Of course the all important question when any one is losing or has lost weight is: "How are you doing it?" In this post I'll share a little bit of my past eating habits and what I'm doing now.

I mentioned in another post that I've learned much about truly healthy eating over the years. I know how many calories to eat and proper portion sizes. Going for "seconds" aren't even a thought, let alone done. I know lean protein, veggies, and fruit are the healthiest things. I've never eaten much processed food, most of the things we eat are homemade.

I'm also strongly opposed to fad diets, meal replacements, and all those other diet products out there. Why? Because generally those aren't a permanent lifestyle change, they're a temporary thing until the extra weight is gone. Are very many people really going to spend $200/month for very long to keep drinking their shakes and taking their pills to maintain weight loss? Who's really going to be able to eat low carb for fifty years?

So why tell you this? If I sound snobby, that's not my intent. I'm saying all of this to explain where my mind was because my pride and my belief that I had it all together in the eating department almost kept me from discovering an awesome eating plan that's doing wonders for me!

I follow "Extreme Weight Loss" on Facebook, not because I wanted diet tips but because it's a TV show that I enjoy. Occasionally I'd see posts about "Carb Cycling", which is the plan the show participants follow. I never clicked the link to learn what it was until four weeks ago. For some reason when I saw it that day, I decided to check it out. I'm happy I did because the whole concept really clicked and I started the very next day! It's great because it's a lifestyle plan that lets you have the benefits of low carb dieting without facing a lifetime of never having them. In 4 weeks, eating the same foods I've always eaten but combined differently, I'm actually seeing results!
See for yourself below! The left is the "before" in case the difference isn't as visible as I believe it to be. It's embarrassing to share my pictures right now, but I guess that's a part of putting my story out there.

Day 4

Today was day four of my new and improved routine. I'm now doing two workouts a day, a early in the day run of at least three miles and a later in the day P90X3 routine.  
I've done plenty of running over the last decade and a half, but backed way off after ending my nearly 700 day running steak in February 2013. I did 90 days of P90X3 between May and July of this year.     Combining the two is a great challenge that I'm excited to undertake!
But then day four happens. By day four, the soreness and tiredness of challenging your body beyond it's current fitness level is hitting you hard. The excitement is wearing a bit thin. Pushing through my measly little three miler with legs that feel like lead takes nearly 40 minutes. Later doing a workout filled with alternating types of pushups and (modified with resistance bands) pullups takes determination to finish since my arms are screaming at me by the hallway point.
Luckily I know that day four is usually the worst day and then things start getting somewhat easier. Only by a slight bit for another week or so, but then the fitness level really starts improving and you start feeling strong again.
So here's to checking day four off on the calendar. To anyone else beginning a fitness routine, know that a few days into it, it will feel hard. You might be discouraged. You'll be tempted to quit. Knowledge is power though, you know your day four will come and you'll be prepared for it and ready to push through to find your new strength!

My Weight and Fitness History

My weight/fitness history is a bit long. Let me start by saying I am not and never have been a naturally thin person. Even when I am at a healthy weight for me, I'm still not thin or tiny. That's the beginning of my battles with my weight. I remember being as young as eight years old and knowing I was "fat". By the time I was a teenager, I was half starving myself trying to be tiny like my friends. Looking back, I realize that I wasn't as fat as I saw myself, I'm simply built bigger and no diet in the world is going to make me a size zero. However that's how my weight loss efforts first began, eating no fat and restricting calories to under a thousand and exercising an hour or two a day trying to become small. Even with all that effort for months/years, I was still never smaller than a size 6-8.

My history really became more complicated after the birth of my first child when I was eighteen. I've never been one to gain too much when I'm pregnant, but that's the pregnancy where I ate whatever and didn't exercise, so that's the one I gained the most with, probably around twenty pounds. I worked a crazy schedule when she was an infant and didn't worry too much about diet and exercise until she was about nine months old. At this point I realized that I'd gained at least fifteen more pounds since having her, so I decided to get serious about diet and exercise. This is when things became weird. Over the next nine months with restricting my calories and exercising at least an hour a day, I GAINED between 30-40 more pounds! I wasn't just a little big anymore, I was obese. At that point I was lethargic and depressed and just gave up completely for about six months. Luckily my weight stayed the same during this time. Finally fed up enough with the situation, I went searching for answers at the doctor's office where I asked for thyroid testing. Amazingly enough, even though my results came back showing I had a clearly underactive thyroid, she refused to put me on medication saying I was "too young" to have thyroid issues! (I was only twenty at the time) That might've been the brick wall to defeat me, but THANKFULLY my wonderful Mother wouldn't let me give up on finding the help I needed. She worked for a doctor and they requested my medical records and gave me the referral I needed to get into see a fabulous endocrinologist.

That endocrinologist was a lifesaver! She couldn't even get a reaction when testing my reflexes when I first started seeing her because I was so low on thyroid hormones. She said I was the worst and most obvious hypothyroidism case she'd ever seen. She also diagnosed me with PCOS, another hormone/endocrine problem. She put me on medication to help with these issues, and by the following summer (it was in November that I first saw her) I'd dropped about 70 pounds. I was a happy, energetic human again!
Since I'm here writing on a blog about my current weight loss journey, that means unfortunately my battle didn't end at that point. For the next several years things were great. I'd run track in middle and high school, but quit for a few years. When I was twenty-one, my dad and I started running regularly. This lead to doing 5k's, 10k's, and eventually half and full marathons. Even my second pregnancy, at age twenty-seven, didn't throw me off of my healthy, fit place. I only gained ten pounds that pregnancy and he was a whopping 9lbs 3oz, so I wound up thinner after pregnancy than before! I controlled my weight just as well during my third pregnancy two years later, but it was after that that things started getting off again and my weight began creeping up. I'd gone off of my medications for PCOS after my first trimester of my second pregnancy and was then only on the thyroid hormone replacement medication, things had been going well enough without it, so I never asked to go back on them in those couple of years. I know now this was a mistake, but since I'd gotten really into truly healthy eating (not just calorie restriction) and more natural living, I REALLY didn't want to need medication and wanted to control things myself through lifestyle. BIG MISTAKE. Natural ways of being healthy are great, but modern medicine is a wonderful tool too when lifestyle isn't enough. So my fourth pregnancy last year took things from a little off to completely bad, much like after the first child. I again exercised and ate a healthy diet through pregnancy and kept weight gain minimal. After he was born in August 2013, the weight started piling back on, about 30 pounds in a few months.

To let you in on the amount exercise I was doing while the weight accumulated after the pregnancies with my third and fourth children: when third child was two months old, my dad read about "streaking" (running every single day without rest days) and told me I should try it. Since I'd run the three days prior to this, I said "Sure, why not?" and ran again that day. I assumed I'd try to make it thirty days and call it good, but I'm so competitive with myself that once I hit that point, I was hooked! That "streak" lasted for 673 days, from when my third was two months old until close to two years later when I was well into my first trimester with my fourth child and one cold February day I was tired and sick and merely didn't care about it anymore. I still ran some, just not every day, and that's when I tried out Zumba and loved it. So from that point on it was Zumba, occasional running, elliptical machine, and water aerobics. I resumed exercising when the fourth child was two weeks old.
My diet was also great the majority of the time. I cook healthy, homemade, "real" (not from a box or a package) and I'd regularly use My Fitness Pal to check that I wasn't overeating calories. Yet I still gained and gained a lot!

Having walked this road before, I knew what I needed. I needed to be back on my medications for PCOS and I needed to be back on the second type of thyroid medication, instead of only one kind. I went to my doctor (we moved years ago and I've never found a decent endocrinologist here, so this was a family physician) and unfortunately even though my lab numbers were admittedly horrible, she didn't want to do anything for me. She wanted to wait six months and then consider it, in my head I'm screaming "In six more months, I'll weigh 30 pounds more!" Thankfully my mother again came to my rescue. We had planned a trip to visit them (twelve hours away) over the Fourth of July and she was able to get a good thyroid doctor there to take me as a patient and see me while we were in town. At that point this was still two months away, but finally there was hope! I wasn't sitting around doing nothing though, I was still working it at and started P90X3 around this time. When I was finally able to see the doctor, she wholeheartedly agreed with me on what I needed. The relief at getting what I needed was so great!

But this leaves me here, with 50 pounds to lose and why I'm writing this blog. It's a little over a month since I received the needed medication and I've lost about 15 pounds since then. It's taking much hard work with exercise and strict discipline on my diet, but I'm making progress now!!
So what's the point of telling my long tale? Not to justify my obese state, amazingly enough. I hope to encourage and motivate you to always do your best! If you're overweight and your body is working against you like mine, don't give up hope and don't quit working for your goal. There's great value in being able to get up and run five plus miles at any time, even if you're still fat. There's value in feeding your body appropriate amounts healthy nourishing foods, no matter what your size.
And if you're overweight and unhappy with yourself and maybe it IS the result of too much food and too little activity, I want to motivate you too! If you put in the work, you'll see results! It won't be overnight, but you'll get there eventually.
I put in twice the work for half the results (when I'm on the necessary medication) and refuse to quit or give up, YOU can do it too!