Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 2: First Hike of the Year

Today my daughters and I took our first hike of the year.  We chose a difficult hike - the Niagara Gorge. The elevation of the Gorge is approximately 200 feet, and the terrain is steep and rocky.  To access the trail, we descended a steep  metal staircase (with 80 steps - we counted!)

We hiked all the way down to the Niagara river and continued along the large slabs of rock that formed the bank.  Across the water we could see the United States, as this river is the body of water that forms part of the border dividing the US and Canada.  The Gorge was formed thousands of years ago when the water rushing over Niagara Falls eroded the rocks and created the path of the Niagara River.

The trail had a lot of interesting crevices that you had to go through.  It gave you this really interesting moment of feeling like you were entering somewhere very special.  Being among all the big stones felt sort of prehistoric.

For particularly steep declines there were a few metal staircases at the first part of the trail.  This is my big bum going down one of those sets of stairs.

Mostly there were these cool stone stairways, that, although they were man made, looked like a natural part of the area.  If your shoes got damp or muddy they were really slippery - I can't imagine descending them in the winter or damp weather!

We took a break by the water.  The girls took off their shoes because they thought it would be refreshing to dip their feet in.  Of course, the water was just above freezing so it was a bit more frigid than refreshing!

Once we got going again, it was apparent that most people turned back after getting to the bottom.  The next section of the trail was not as well maintained.  Lots of loose rocks were everywhere and the going was precarious.  We were determined to hike all the way to the whirlpool, so we kept going, although progress was much slower through this part.

Finally we made it and took another well deserved rest sitting on a big rock with our shoes off, eating grapes and watching the aero-car going back and forth above the whirlpool.

On the way back, the kids took refuge in a cave to cool off.

This hike was different from most we've done, as you hiked down first and the return trip was all uphill.  We took a different trail to return, and it was steep and winding.  I'm apparently in rather poor cardiovascular shape, despite all the walking, because I had to stop a couple of times and catch my breath.

This is the point at which I decided I might die before I made it to the car.  Don't let the photo fool you - the trail disappears around that corner and keeps winding on up.

And don't forget, we still had to go up the 80-step staircase to get to the car! (pictured above)  It was much harder going up than down!!!

I think I must've burned about 10 billion calories.  I was totally beat, but we've already decided to go hiking again on Monday!

Friday, April 2, 2010

April 2: A Little Ray of Sunlight

Finally, I'm starting to feel like a ray of sunshine is getting through the cloud of depression.

I had to go back to the doctor recently because the depression and anxiety have been winning out over my intentions.  I have had a lot of trouble getting out of the house.  My medication was increased.  For the first few days, of course, nothing happened.  I still made myself get out and walk everyday, telling myself the dog needed it.  But in truth, I'm the one who needs it.

For some reason, going to a public place, like the bank, is really difficult for me right now, but in the woods near my house, I can follow those circling trails for miles, just accompanied by my dog and some good tunes on the Ipod, and get away from that anxiety.  It feels like the very trees are sheltering me from the bad feelings, the shortness of breath, the nausea, the overwhelming feeling that people are staring at me.

Some days I walk out there alone and cry.  I cry for my Dad, whom I miss more than I ever thought possible.  Because his illness was long, and he was suffering, I thought that his death would bring relief.  I thought I had prepared myself for losing him.  I'm glad he isn't in pain anymore but I wasn't prepared for the ache in my heart that is never far from the surface.  Sometimes when I am out there, alone but for the dog, a bright male cardinal lights in our path and stares at us, lets us get amazingly close.  I think of my dad, because he loved birds and the cardinal was always his favorite - he always pointed them out anytime he saw one.  It feels, just for a quick second, like he is saying hello.

The past week, I've really increased my mileage.  I feel nearly compelled to seek the solace of the woods and walk until I can hardly move my legs to carry me another step.  I've been walking 6 kilometers through the woods every afternoon, and then after dinner, I've taken a shorter walk, less brisk, with the dog, and sometimes my daughter.  If I walk far enough maybe the cloud of depression will get tired of following me.

Yesterday, for the first time in recent memory, I felt good.  I felt like my sense of humor was present.  I was actually hungry.  I had a bit more energy and I sat outside on the front porch and chatted briefly with a neighbor, instead of ducking into the backyard to enjoy fresh air.

When I was out in the woods I thought of Dad, but I didn't cry.  I smiled.  I remembered going with him to Wal-Mart, on one of his morning walks, when he was 85.  He was getting very feeble, taking short steps where he hardly lifted his feet, and using a cart for support, yet he made his laps around the store until he succeeded in completing his mile.  If he could do that, I have no right to give up and cave to how I'm feeling. 

So I'm trying to make today better than yesterday and will continue to do that everyday from here on out.  I'm sure there will be bad days where I regress a little, but step by step I will recover from this.  If I just keep walking, the depression will get tired of following, and give up, and let more sunshine in. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1: A Day in the Life.......

I've gotten a few emails lately asking me what I eat.  Lots of people have the food blogs covered, so I don't generally do this, but I thought that once a week, I'd give you a rundown on "A Day in the Life".  Let me know whether you like this or not.  I don't want to bore anyone!

This is for yesterday, March 31.

For breakfast I had my version of a pb&j: Ezekiel toast, natural peanut butter, and no-sugar apple butter.  I also had skim milk, thinly disguised as an iced latte, and a banana.  I never get tired of this; in fact I eat this for breakfast nearly every day.

I ended up having breakfast late in the day, so about a half an hour after breakfast, I threw on a baseball cap and took the dog to the park for a walk. We went 6km in 50 minutes, which is faster than usual for us, despite the fact that the dog peed about a hundred times.

I was absolutely starving when we got back from our walk.  I was in the mood for salad.  I made a mixed green salad with raspberry poppyseed dressing, homemade whole wheat croutons, and grilled chicken.  It was as pretty as it was delicious.

I had some writing and paperwork to do in the afternoon, as well as blogging, of course.  It was my daughter's night at her dad's so I just threw together a dinner of leftovers.  I had whole wheat spaghetti, homemade marinara sauce, lean ground beef, and mushrooms, topped with freshly grated Romano cheese.

After dinner I was feeling restless so I went for a short walk with the dog.  We just walked around the neighborhood and went for 2 km at a moderate pace.


I've had some issues with appetite lately, which has made it hard for me to get all of my calories and protein in during a given day.  So each day, I check my intake and if needed I make a protein shake with skim milk, fresh fruit and a natural protein powder with no artificial sweeteners.

All in all, this day worked out to

1579 calories
165 g carbs
55 g fat
111 g protein

Everything was very much on target.

Have a great day!

April 1: Monthly Check-In

Well, I've done better this month than last month.  I didn't meet my goal of losing 7 pounds, despite my very best efforts.  I lost 5 pounds, which is better than February, where I lost 2 pounds.  So I'm starting April at 187.

My weight loss has really slowed down, which is very disappointing.  I haven't lost at all for over 2 weeks - the rest of the loss was crammed into the first part of last month.  Then this week, I lost another two.

I'm not as upset as I thought I would be.  I've done absolutely everything humanly possible this month (while still remaining healthy, of course), so I figure at this point I'm at least a very healthy fat person.  Yesterday I walked a total of 8 km throughout the day.  I eat very well, and I monitor my intake carefully.  I'm looking into some things like "refeeds" and "carb cycling" to kick April in the butt.  I've also submitted to a whole lot of blood work to make certain everything is physically okay for weight loss. 

If I keep working with the same determination, the weight will come off.  It may not come off as quickly as I'd like, but it will come off.

April is going to be a good month.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mar. 31: Don't Let Your Results Slip A-Weigh

My new prized possession is my kitchen scale  Mine's not a cool retro one like the one pictured here (how cool is that?)  It's a simple digital scale that I bought at Wal-Mart for $20.  So far, it's been an eye-opening investment.

As I've mentioned on here before, I've had a couple of months of a weight loss stall.  Okay, I didn't just mention it.  I whined, moped and ranted about it.  "Mention" just sounds nicer.

One wise lady on a forum that I journal on recommended several times that I begin to weigh everything.  She pointed out that if my measurement on a highly condensed caloric goodie like peanut butter is off, it could throw off my day by 100 calories.  Then if I guess at the size of my apple, add another 50 calories.  You get the idea.

So over the weekend I wandered around Wal-Mart forever looking for a food scale.  I finally found one hidden on the bottom shelf underneath the Foreman grills.  I brought home my shiny scale and I've been weighing everything that goes in my mouth, aside from the odd fingernail.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered I've been off on pretty much everything.  She was right (but don't tell her I said so.)  However, what I discovered is that I've been undereating, especially with regard to protein sources.  I was off on fruit, guessing lower than the actual calories, and off on veggies, guessing higher than the actual serving sizes.  Like I said, off on everything.  Irritating but true.

So here is how I do it.  I put my plate on the scale and then turn it down, so it sets to "0" and doesn't weigh the plate.  Also be aware that grams are more accurate than ounces, because of the smaller increments.  Then I load the food on, one item at a time.  After I jot down the weight of an item, I hit the button that says "Tare" to reset the scale to "0" again so I can get an accurate weight on the next food item. 

I learned a couple of silly things too.  For example, with the peel, today's banana was 177 grams.  Naked, it was 120 grams.  57 grams of peel!!!  I have photographic evidence of this, just in case you were in doubt.  Apples, to be weighed accurately, need to have the core removed.  You could make yourself crazy with this but it's also kind of fun.

So, my big tip of the day?  If you are calorie counting (and if you are dieting, you should be) buy a scale.  You'll be much more accurate and your weight loss plan will thank you!

And a little shout-out: Thanks, Morgan, for the excellent advice.  We can always count on your kindness and experience. (((hugs)))

Mar. 31: Who Will You Be "After"?

Have you ever wondered if you will be a "different person" after you finish losing the weight you've set out to lose? I know that we all daydream about how our lives will change - men will think we are beautiful, we'll be able to run a 10K, we'll be able to go into any store and pick something fashionable in a single digit size.

But who will you be inside?

Right now, I often feel like a thin person trapped in a fat body.  I have the healthy habits of a fit person.  I eat carefully, I work out daily, and I focus my energies towards a healthy lifestyle.

But when I lose all that I plan to lose, will I feel like a fat person in a fit body?

Will I still be very shy around people I don't know?  Will I still tend to stay in the background when in a large group?  Will I still be a geek? When a good looking guy flirts with me, will I learn to flirt back or will I still be suspicious of his motives?

I really don't think I have terrible self esteem, although it probably sounds like I do given that last paragraph.  I'm a person who tends to enjoy her own company.  I'm an introspective bookworm.  I'm reasonably presentable, but I'm always shocked when a good-looking guy flirts with me or asks me out.  I consider that realistic, as opposed to sad, because sociological studies confirm most people look for a partner with similar attractiveness and intelligence. 
I sometimes wonder what life will be like when the dieting portion is all said and done.  Will being fit take me so far out of my personal comfort zone that it will be difficult to maintain?

Lots of questions and no answers.....I'll let you know when I get there.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mar. 30: I Ate Ice Cream and Lived to Tell the Tale

I realized after I posted yesterday that I sounded like a neurotic woman who rules out all complex carbs.  That is definitely NOT the case.  The frightening thing I have tackled with the refeed is eating without being concerned about keeping my calories low.  Its the concept of purposely adding a piece of bread to a meal just to raise the carbs and calories.  I've spent so many months training myself to eat carefully and within a set of guidelines, it felt like hanging upside-down on a trapeze without a net. A rush, but scary because it could all go horribly wrong.

However, I indulged over the past two days and am here to tell the tale.  I ate an English Muffin that was not Ezekiel bread.  I had ice cream for dessert - heck, I had dessert, period.  I piled fruit on my plate and nibbled it all day long.  I kept the day pretty clean, for the most part, but just added a lot of "unnecessary" food.

And I learned something.  I did not magically swell up like a balloon today.  I didn't frantically crave sugar, rooting under the couch cushions for some long ago dropped piece of candy.  I didn't lay on the couch in a carbohydrate-induced state of lethargy, too slothful to brush my teeth.  I'm avoiding the scale for a few days, because apparently this can make you retain some serious water, but I woke up and felt, FINE.  I had plenty of energy today.  I didn't have any undue cravings.  I fell back into my previous tight eating habits with no issues at all.  I took a long, brisk walk with the dog without having to fight with myself to get motivated to do it.

Life went on, my friends.  Absolutely nothing bad happened from loosening the dietary reigns a little bit.

I've already decided to do this again next Sunday and Monday.  I'll keep it all within reason again, but those two days fall conveniently on Easter and my birthday.  CAKE.  I'm going to have a slice of cake!

I'll weigh in on Friday or so and let you know if this has triggered some weight loss.  Even if it didn't, I figure I'm no further behind, as long as I didn't officially gain weight from it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mar. 29: Something Wicked This Way Comes

"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."  But it isn't Shakespeare's witches......... It's CARBS!!!

I breaking into some unknown territory over the next couple of days.  My weight loss is totally stuck.  In 2 months I have lost 5 pounds.  I am utterly frustrated.  I've recently begun not only measuring my food but weighing it.  My calories are definitely low enough that I should be losing no less than 2 pounds a week.

But I'm not.

I've begun a great consistent exercise program, so not only are my calories in deficit, I'm burning off lots of the ones I'm getting.  So again, I should be losing. 

But I'm not.

I posted a question asking for help on one of my favorite forums.  First, the brilliant ladies there suggested weighing, instead of measuring, because it is much more accurate.  So this weekend I went to Walmart and got a scale.  I wasn't terribly surprised that my serving estimates were off.  What did surprise me was that I was underfeeding myself even more than I was trying to.  What I had assumed was a 4 ounce serving of beef was actually 2.8 ounces.  My estimate of a 5 oz chicken breast was in reality, a 4 oz chicken breast.  Everything I've measured has surprised me so far.  So measuring it will be from now on.

Still, the scale is stuck and now, we've identified there is no caloric reason.  The next recommendations were a "refeed" or a "diet break."  I selected the option of a refeed.  I had to ask a bunch of silly, repetitive questions to figure out how to do it.  I'm kind of stumbling through this first day of it, feeling strangely guilty and clueless, all at the same time.

The gist of a refeed is that after a certain amount of time of strict dieting, your hormones can go awry.  One way of "resetting" your hormones is to go on a refeed and consume a lot of carbs.  For two days, I can eat carbs with abandon, while attempting to keep my protein and fat at the same numbers they have been previously.  This generally raises your calories approximately to maintenance level.  This is the way I understand the scenario.  I'm still researching, so if I discover I've given you misinformation, I will correct it, both on this post and in a new post.

So today was day one.  First let me say, I haven't really restricted carbs a whole lot.  I eat 2 pieces of Ezekiel toast for breakfast every morning without fail.  I eat tons of fruits and veggies, and I have 1-2 more servings of whole grains or potato per day.  Today, I'm trying to get my carbs up to 200 grams.  Because I have tracked everything so carefully over the past few months, this goes totally against the things I have ingrained in myself to lose weight.  It is scary to add an English muffin to dinner, even when it is a grainy, nutty, Ezekiel muffin. I honestly feel like my butt is broadening to it's former glory as I sit here typing this.

It's nearing the end of the day, and I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get all 200g in, but I'm giving it the old college try.  Tomorrow is day 2 of this evil plan, so I've figured out a few ways to make it a little easier and more spread out. 

I keep reminding myself of how I'm constantly telling people that one meal won't affect their results negatively.  But will two days of carbohydrate abandon drive the scale up, never to drop again?  I'll let you know, but right now, I need to have some ice cream.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mar. 28th: What's in YOUR Easter basket?

We're beginning the week of Easter, so it's time for a pep talk, my friends.

Holidays are difficult times for dieters.  We either feel like social outcasts because we brought our own chicken breast and brown rice to the family dinner, or we feel like failures  because we say "To heck with it!" and dig in with a fork in each hand.

There IS a happy medium.  It's called a healthy attitude about food.

Food is a social glue that holds families together.  What would a family event be without Grandma's famous pie, and Mom's secret-recipe hot rolls?  You don't have to give everything up - you just have to be reasonable.

First of all, ditch the guilt.  no one, except perhaps, you yourself, expects you to be perfect 100% of the time.  One off-plan meal is not going to cause a 5 pound weight gain.  It could make you fluctuate and retain some water, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn't going to make that much of a difference if you've had a healthy week up until that point.

Unfortunately a lot of people see Easter ( or any other holiday) as a week-long extravaganza of "to-heck-with-its."  That is the attitude that will get you into trouble.  An entire week of eating with reckless abandon WILL be reflected in your weight loss efforts.

So what's a chocolate bunny loving girl to do?

Plan ahead.  What traditions are important to you?  If you had to choose, would it be the family dinner at Grandma's or the brunch at your house?  What is your very favorite Easter candy treat?  Is it the marshmallow chicks or the solid chocolate bunny?  Make some decisions, my friend, and stick to them.

For me, it's a little easier.  My family is in the states and my kids go to the big Easter dinner at their Grandma's on their Dad's side.  We do any of our shin-digs here, which means I am in control of the food.

For my Easter candy, I chose a little bag of dark chocolate Eggies, which I have already thoroughly enjoyed, with no guilt (okay, not much guilt.)  We'll be having brunch at our house right after church, so I'm going to make a ham steak and split it between us, some breakfast potatoes, some eggs, a fruit salad, and cinnamon rolls.  I'm going to indulge in a bit of everything and love every bite of it.  But I won't have tons of leftovers calling my name later on in the day, when the kids have gone to their grandma's.  I can keep things tight for the rest of the day.  As well, the day before I plan on working out hard and keeping my diet tight.  No harm done with my splurge.

If, despite all your good intentions, you go overboard, the worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about it.  I think we often fail in our efforts because we demand nothing less than perfection from ourselves.  We seem to think, "Well, I already messed up, so who cares what I do for the rest of the day !!!(weekend, week, month).

The very next meal is your opportunity to get things right - don't pass it up because you made a mistake earlier in the day.  Your victory is not in never failing, but in starting again immediately!

What Easter treats will you be indulging in this year?