Saturday, August 13, 2011

Making it Happen

Here it is, August 13th already!  I am doing a progress check on my goals for the year. Here's what I have completed:

1.  Completed my masters' program and graduated from St. Scholastica
2.  Acquired my own office space and started Next Dimension Wellness to help promote health and wellness among individuals and people dealing with mental health/chemical dependency issues -- also became licensed as a EAP provider in the area
3.  Started a new job at a place that shares my vision to use nutrition and exercise with the MH/CD population and began writing a program description for my new position
4.  Became approved by the state to offer continuing education in exercise physiology and held my first training for providers in July

Here are my short-term goals, which I plan to achieve by 11-11-11:

1.  Complete book I am writing
2.  Run a 5K in 22 minutes or less
3.  Hold a training for MN LADCs in October and have at least 50 participants (my first training was not marketed to all the LADCs in the state)
4.  Complete manual for my new job description and implement "Fitness Focus" option by October 1st, 2011
5.  Re-engage in church by attending new pastor ceremony next Sunday
6.  Be in Florida, on a beach in the Keys, on 11-11-11 AND 11-15-11!
7.  De-clutter the house

Long term goals: (by August, 2012)
1.  Move into new house on a lake
2.  Meet Steven Tyler
3.  Patent and get financial endorsement for an idea I have for a bathroom scale (maybe I can go on the Shark Tank.. haha)

I will be using this blog, along with my Youtube videos, as a way to hold myself accountable and also to demonstrate the power of the written word and so you can see what happens when you get focused and specific about your goals...YOU MAKE THEM HAPPEN!

Get the book "Write it Down, Make it Happen" by Henriette Anne Klauser. My mom bought me this book 11 years ago and it has made all the difference in the world. I started writing my goals down -- and one by one (along with action on my part, of course) they started coming true.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Healthy at a Hotel

Many people wonder, "how can I stay on track when I'm traveling? There's so much temptation with food and my hotel doesn't even have a fitness center!"

I am in Blaine, MN (which is a suburb of the Twin Cities) this morning -- attending a training for work and will be here through Thursday.

My work put me up at a decent hotel - wi-fi, microwave, refri, pool, etc., I didn't need anything fancy and won't be spending much time here anyway - but of course my first concern was "does it have a fitness center." LOL

I went online and scoped out the hotel before I got here, and I swear the website told me there was a workout room of some kind...or maybe that was just what I wanted to believe as I scanned over the hotel's amenities.

So of course I packed all my necessary workout supplies for the week. I also knew the hotel had a fridge, so I stopped at Super Target when I rolled into town to buy almond milk, organic eggs, tuna, fruit and frozen chicken breast...which I can cook in the microwave.

After getting here yesterday, I unpacked all of my stuff, got settled in, and around 6 p.m. decided I would head to the fitness center for a workout. I hadn't gotten a run in that morning, had been sitting in the car and needed to MOVE.

So I journeyed down to the front desk in my workout clothes and said "where is your workout room?" To which the girl answered, "we don't have one."

Move on to plan B...

Since I am a member of Anytime Fitness, I should've just gone that route in the first place, but thought if the hotel had a treadmilll I would just stay onsite. A quick google search confirmed that there was an Anytime just 4.3 miles away in Mounds View.   I jumped on the highway for what I imagined to be a quick trip, but it wasn't long before it became clear that I had confused Highway 10 and County Road 10 -- and thus, gotten myself ALL turned around.

After some recalculating, I finally found myself in front of the Anytime Fitness, which was located in a strip mall and appeared to be alarmingly deserted. It looked dark, unoccupied and, well... CLOSED.  But that couldn't be possible, right? Anytime means ANYTIME.

I went up to the door, scanned my key, and nothing. Doors locked, interior dark, no one inside. WTH?

I turned back to my truck, dejected... but since I was on a mission, I quickly consulted my Blackberry and was delighted to discover another Anytime awaited in Arden Hills...about 5 miles away.

I continued on my adventure and found the location, which reassuringly featured actual people working out inside.  I went in and had a great 5-mile run on a very nice Nautilus treadmill. My only complaint was that there was no bosu ball to be found.

Sooo, I didn't give up on my workout after running into the roadblock. And honestly, even if there had been NO Anytime fitness in the nearby towns, I could've fired up my laptop and used it to work out to a P90X DVD right in my room. The people in the room below me may not have liked my plyo moves, but oh well :)

It just takes a little planning, being healthy on the road. One of the things I have learned is to be prepared --- because when I am hungry and desperate, I tend to make bad choices.

Time to grab a shower, have a great day!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Change is GOOOOOD

Hello everyone!! Yes, I am still here. Getting ready for some exciting changes and a new chapter in my life.

I have decided to cease to be a Beachbody coach.  After 2.5 years, this was a tough decision and I thought about it a lot. I will continue to speak highly of the company and to recommend their products. The coaching part just wasn't for me.

I love the Beachbody programs and products, and I will continue to use my Beachbody fitness DVDs  --especially P90X and Turbo jam (old school version, yes, it gets the job as they have become part of my life.  What I am tired of, is trying to sell people things, trying to convince them that they need a shake or a special DVD to lose weight and to be healthy. For those who are looking for a jump start, supplemental tool, support - etc. it's all good... I think Beachbody does great things...has helped many people, and will continue to do so.

In my opinion, nutritional supplements and "the next great workout" are wonderful tools which can definitely help people lose weight, increase motivation, break through a plateau or kickstart a program. The problem I always struggle with in my mind, though, is "can you keep affording this product for the rest of your life." If you just buy P90X, of course you don't need to "keep buying it," but everytime I would get a program, they'd come out with a new one... and I would think, "what was wrong with the one I had?" LOL Same deal with my iPod and Blackberry.. I'm always behind the new technology!  I have all the admiration in the world for great salespeople, as well as anyone who is great at what they do or shares their passion with others.  There is also great income to be made if you work for it.  I am all about people living their lives by doing what makes them happy.

However, I know many people I encounter cannot afford these products or programs, yet they deperately need to lose weight, improve cardiovascular health or just improve their exercise capacity so they can do simple activities of daily living.  Many of the people I work with are on a limited income, are the working poor, are receiving assistance or are trying to put food on the table and may be doing so with quick and cheap convenience foods because they think it is saving money -- when really it is causing disease and increased health care costs in the long run.  That is why I want to make health accessible to everyone, and will now use my blog to offer helpful tips and simple exercise strategies which are available to virtually everyone.

So, my goal is to help anyone and everyone through this blog and my videos -- free of charge -- through my personal, academic and professional knowledge of exercise science, fitness, diet, stress management and related topics.  I'm not trying to sell you a thing -- except maybe a new lease on life! 

It became clear to me the other day when that stranger paid for my order.. this is my way of paying it forward to everyone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Sitting in a meeting at work a couple of weeks ago, something dawned on me.

I am terrified of commitment.

Big ones, small ones... any kind.  Which shoes should I buy? Brown clogs? Green flip-flops? Tan boots? Which car? SUV? Mid size? Mini van?  Which paint? Should I go back to school/remodel the kitchen/get a small business loan/switch to a different mineral water/launch a new website?

I spend entirely TOO much time thinking and agonizing over these things. Yes, some decisions require a lot of thought and consideration, but for others its downright ridiculous how much time I waste deciding whether to move forward.

Now, this may sound strange coming from a woman who has been happily involved with one man for going on 8 years and married for going on 7... so let me explain.

I'm not afraid to commit to things I know and believe are "failsafe."  I feel that way about Mike and my marriage. The man is the most loyal man on earth and has never let me down, not once.

I am also committed to God.  I have seen Him work in my life so many times and in so many different ways... it cannot be a coincidence. Although I do read the Bible from time to time when I can discipline myself, I am not at all good at quoting scripture.  Anyway, I am thinking of the part in it where Jesus is fasting and walking around (in the desert, is it?) and Satan is trying all different sorts of things to tempt him... saying stuff like, "If you really are the Christ, then turn that rock into a loaf of bread!"  Jesus refuses to of course because part of his coming to Earth was to be like us and to not use his "powers."

Anyway, the point of that little Bible story? That I am hiding my powers from everyone? LOL, no.  In fact, I don't even know if sharing that story has any relevance to my post other than for me to note that Jesus was amazingly humble and didn't show off even though he could have.

Annnnyyyyway... back to commitment. I have a terrible time committing. That's it.  To all sorts of things... things like, "should I get rid of this ten year old t-shirt that is practically threadbare and full of holes?" Nawww.... I might need it someday.  (is that fear or commitment? or hoarding...) OR...

Server: "Would you like a glass of water?"
Me: "Uh... well... Hmmmm, ya know... I'm not sure. Heh. Ahh. I'm having coffee.  OH. Do I want water, too?  Ummmm. No thanks. WAIT. No, yeah. Sure, I guess."

ARRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hate this about myself!!!

Or... how about...deciding on a career????

Beginning of college career - Age 18: Check "prenursing" box on admission to UWS.  6 months in: Quit.  Age 19: 6 months later: Decide I want to be a radiological technician, or "rad tech."  Transfer to DCC, as it was then, back in 1992.  Waiting list was 2 yrs long. Quit school.  Decide FOND DU LAC is the way to go! Actually complete AA degree.  Age 20: Transfer BACK to UWS.  Decide to be "broad field science" major, since there is no astronaut track. (hahahaha) Get pregnant, get married, (not necessarily in that order) put school on hold. Move to KC. (geographical escape).  Explore MANY universities. KU, K State, DeVry.  Last in KC only 6 months due to "issues."  Age 21: Have baby, get divorced. (in that order). Return to UWS (AGAIN!) This time major is... (???) Teaching? I think? Last awhile.  Decide broadcasting is the way to go!!!!!!!!!!!!! Age 26: BACK TO LSC. (DCC now defunct.) Complete and earn (useless) Broadcasting "diploma." Hmmm... move into a lucrative career in radio sales, my first job pays a whopping $200 a week.  Move to KDLH- return to UWS (AGAIN!! need that B.S. degree). Graduate with degree in Mass Comm/Psych. (2002). Stay out of school until I get the itch again in April, 2010 and am accepted into CSS's masters program in Exercise Physiology.

Why do I have this fear of commitment? Is it because I think I will fail? Or because things never are as I plan them to be in my head????

I just want to stop thinking thinking thinking so much.  Is there any solution to this????

Oh, wait. I know there was a point to this entire rambling post. The point being, the reason I am NOT seeing more success with my Beachbody business, is that I never fully committed to it.  When I did focus on it, it did well. When I stuck it on the shelf, it just sat there.  Go figure, right?

So I have been a coach for 2 years now, and despite going through periods of time where I've done VERY little with the business, I have continued to earn over $100 a month. Through very little effort of my own. This is very sad to me because I know if I were to make an EFFORT... a COMMITMENT, I could do so much better.

Currently, I am an Emerald Coach. I have four coaches underneath me. I earn commission from the sales of the coaches below me, and of course I earn commission on what I sell (25%).

Here are my plans going forward to help myself grow my BB business:

*Network with at least 3 people per day about Beachbody
*Work out in WOWY, Beachbody's online gym every day
*Resume Shakeology
*Start INSANITY on April 1!

I had been on Shakeology prior to getting pregnant with Emmy and LOVED it. I felt so good... but had to stop when I got pregnant. I have been meaning to start up again, but various things have been getting in the way.  No more! I am going to commit to it and see what kind of changes will take place.

Let me know if I can help you reach any of your health and fitness goals!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Therapy Session

March, 2000

The pic to the left is me with 185 pounds on my 63 inch frame. Some of you have seen this pic, but I like to take it out frequently so I don't forget where I was and what I can go back to if I fall off track.  Even though I've lost over 60 pounds since that pic was taken, I still think very much the same...or I should say I regress to thinking that I will lose what I have achieved.  I have a fat brain.  I don't always think like a fit, athletic, capable person.  It is a daily struggle.

I probably think about food 90% of the day... either I'm thinking what to eat, what not to eat, if I ate too much, if I can let myself eat something I want but shouldn't have, what I weighed that day. Is my weight creeping up? Do my pants feel tighter, or is it just my imagination? Do my thighs look big the way I am sitting???  Seriously, it gets so damn old.
Feb. 2011

I know there are a lot of more important things going on in the world and things people are suffering through that are much more horrible than what I have to deal with. Some days my self-examination is off the charts...and I just want to say to myself.. WHO F'N CARES IF YOU GAINED TWO POUNDS!" There are earthquakes and tsunamis and child abuse and poverty and famine... and you are worried about gaining two effffing pounds.  It makes me feel horribly guilty, but I can't help it. Other days, like when I feel good about my body, I've had a great workout, my clothes fit well... the voice in my head is quiet.

I just wish I could eat whatever and not think about it so much. I've tried this experiment in a million different ways... but the bottom line is, no matter what I do... I can never relax. I need to be constantly vigilant or the pounds start creeping back on.

I guess it just seems so unfair... the way I am careful almost all the time, am very regimented about exercise...but it never gets easier and the obsession with food and weight never goes away. 

Monday, February 28, 2011


I've been thinking a lot over the last week about why I am the way that I am.

This food and body stuff didn't happen never does, right?

You see...things happened to me as a child that made me feel anxious and insecure.  I was thinking really hard about how this all started, and one of the events I can trace it back to was in first grade.  My teacher asked me to come up in front of the class and start a record we were listening to for our phonics exercise. Yep, that was back in the days of phonics. All I had to do was put the needle on the record.

At first, I was excited that she asked me, but when I got to the record player, I was suddenly shy, nervous and intimidated...and paralyzed by fright.  I stood there before it, unsure of what to do. Finally, my teacher said, "just put the needle on the record!" Her tone, as I recall, was slightly exasperated, like, "let's get this show on the road."

The kids in the class giggled and I slunk back to my desk...mortified.  This gave me a feeling of failure and no faith in my ability to master unfamiliar tasks.

I can think of many more events, and quite a few of them involve my teachers in grade school.  I don't know why these seemingly inconsequential events had such an impact on me... but I think it was because I really put my teachers on pedestals and I was a people-pleaser.  I wanted them to see what a good girl and a good student I was.  I was once publicly humilated by one of my teachers because another boy and I had traded shoes... (weird, I know) something kids did in the 5th grade to indicate they were "dating."  She announced to the class that this kid and I had "officially traded shoes."  The class giggled and bent down to look at my feet.  For some reason, her scornfulness (and their curious attention) made me feel that I didn't deserve a boyfriend, not now...not ever.

And of course, there are the stories of my embarrassment and failure in gym class... being picked last for teams, getting weighed and being almost the fattest in the class, (over 100 lbs in 3rd or 4th grade) having boys call me a fat whale in gym class, tasting blood in my throat after doing a shuttle run...dreading the pull-up test because I knew I would not be able to hang for even 10 seconds.

Paralleling these events in grade school was my chaotic home life and my dad's alcoholism.  I can remember going home at the end of the day, never knowing what I would find.  This jacked my anxiety up to insane levels, and I started having panic attacks at a young age...perhaps nine or ten.  I didn't want to go anywhere that was unfamiliar because it made me feel out of control.  If I tried to sleep over at a friends' house, I would often have panic attacks and insist on leaving once it got dark.  This alienated me even further from my peers and didn't do anything to improve my social standing.  In fact, several girls "dumped" me as a friend after I wussed out at their slumber parties.  I couldn't bear the thought of being in a strange house and having people "fall asleep on me." I liked to be at home where at least there were certain things I could do to master my own surroundings.

I was considering about all of this yesterday as I ran on the treadmill... and I started thinking.  I had this paralyzing anxiety and insecurity as a child and teen, but when I was introduced to alcohol in 1988, I found something that put a band aid on all of it.  I know this isn't going to be a shocking revelation to anyone else who drank to deal with things/feelings... but alcohol was the thing that helped me deal with all emotions...good and bad... well, essentially I mostly used it to not feel.

When I drank, I felt powerful, invincible and strong.  I didn't feel insecure about my body, self-conscious or anxious.  I realized with my first drink that alcohol gave me a coat of armor that nothing could penetrate. It made me oblivious to the world around me and removed my preoccupation with "self." Is anyone looking at me? Are they talking about me? What are they saying? I didn't care when I was drinking.

So, starting at the age of 15, alcohol was the tool I used to NOT get a brief reprieve from my constant self-examination. From that point forward, my development was arrested and I did not experience emotions fully and authentically.  Chemical help enabled me to go out with people and be something I was not.  I didn't have to feel uncomfortable or anxious with alcohol as my companion.

I know lots of people use drinking to loosen up at a social event, which isn't such a big deal, but I always took it to the extreme. I NEEDED alcohol to interact and talk to people.  I had half a box of wine with my old boyfriend Dale before walking across the stage to receive my high school diploma, because I couldn't bear the thought of everyone looking at me and thinking "Hmmm...I think Melissa has gained weight.  Is Melissa getting fatter?"  As if everyone in the audience was fixated ONLY ON ME.  Of course, that's crazy and paranoid, but it was how I felt.

I can remember going to a wedding of a friend when I was 19.  I looked around at the reception hall of people, of girls dressed up in little cocktail dresses, and felt fat and out of place. I imagined them looking at me with scorn and evaluating me.  I felt panic wash over and I knew I would not be able to talk to anyone until I had a few drinks. I went straight to the bar and ordered a beer, and stood there drinking for a half hour or so by myself until the alcohol had taken the edge off my anxiety.

Age 28, feeling fat and out of place at Charlie's Club because my drunken date John was draped across a table of women who were regarding me with reproach.  I quickly excused myself for the "bathroom," went to the bar and downed two shots of Jager.  That did the trick. I returned to the table, not caring what the other women had to say about me.

There are thousands more situations like this where alcohol was my helpful "aide," and I continued to use it into my late 20's... despite many consequences and problems that resulted.  The funny thing that happened though, was that once I got into the later years of my drinking, alcohol no longer worked. It didn't relieve my nervousness, in fact, in made me MORE nervous, especially the next day when I was sobering up and my central nervous system was "waking up" after a night of drinking.  the consequences and painful repercussions far outweighed the brief "pleasant" period.  Also, I didn't have the period of calming buzz and euphoria I loved so well...I was buzzed for maybe a half hour and then went into a blackout.  Buzzed to blackout.

The point of all this, in a nutshell, is that I used alcohol to NOT FEEL from age 15 to age 30.  Here I am at 38, and with going on 8 years logged into recovery, I still feel like a teenager.  I have a lot of trouble asserting myself, and this bothers me.  I've been mulling over this for the past week. Shouldn't I be farther along by now?  Shouldn't I be fixed? Why do I seem to be getting worse?

Throughout the day, things will happen... I'll be put into unpleasant situations... and my mind will scream, THIS IS WHY I DRANK.  I get through it, without alcohol of course... but it doesn't seem to get easier.  Or maybe it does with some things? I can finally dance sober...

Exercise definitely helps me feel strong and in control of myself, it has helped in so many ways.  "Gaining control of the physical body puts you in the driver's seat of life," says the 4-Hour Body guy... and I agree. Exercise has helped me to gain mastery over many things and to see myself as capable and worthy.

(it's so funny... as I am wanting to type "exercise" I keep thinking of the world "ALCOHOL." LOL)

So what's the answer??? I don't know.  Becoming aware is the first step, right? I have become aware recently that I am not as far along as I would hope to be... that I am still a people pleaser at times, I still feel socially awkward most of the time.  I thought it would be getting better, but it's NOT. I thought with practice, it would come easier, but it doesn't.

Anyway, I had a great weekend...Friday night I had a few cheats (pizza, Girl Scout cookies), but Saturday morning I had a hard run and an hour of bootcamp working out with some other folks at the gym, which was great.  Yesterday I had a 4.5 mile run and exercises on the bosu ball. Monday is one of my off-days for exercise.

I am going to keep thinking about this and trying to figure it out... what it comes down to is that my poor body image made alcohol the perfect solution to my problems at the time... but after many years of using it as a coping mechanism, I am still trying to put the pieces together and figure out who I am.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Answers to Questions

Morning everyone!

Thanks for following my blog, I am excited about it! It was also great to reconnect with Christina again, but old fitness friend from the AOL journal days! We have been comparing notes on our different diet/exercise plans which has been fun.

Lately, I've been getting some questions from various people on the internet and also in real life about why I eat the way I do... so let's clear a few things up.

1. I am not trying to lose weight, just maintain.
2. No, I don't think I'm "fat," but like most women I have insecurities about my body.
3. I don't think any food should be forbidden, even if it's straight lard.
4. I don't think fruits, grains and dairy are BAD... per se... just dangerous for me.

My eating plan may seem drastic to people (the way I essentially avoid simple carbs, fruit and dairy). I don't advocate that everyone do it this way... and some people's metabolisms are able to tolerate more carbs/fruit. Many people I know eat whole grains and fruits regularly and have no problems keeping their weight off/down. I have just found though that my body LOVES to store carbs, so I avoid 'em. In fact, almonds, cheese, fruit, nuts, and nut butters (seemingly innocent in moderation) have derailed my progress on more than one occasion.  They are like "trigger" foods for me, much like sugar, which means once I start in with them I have a lot of trouble stopping.

I think my metabolism was ruined as a child...making my body predisposed to storing anything that is not protein or fiber (or a vitamin/mineral-haha). Of course this is kind of my own theory and I have not proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt... all I know is that when I start adding my off-limits stuff back in on a regular basis (and believe me, I have done it) my weight starts edging upward. I start to think, "oh I can have whole grain bread, just a few slices" "I can have cheese, just this once" etc.. and then I start craving more and more. Maybe it's my predisposition to addiction that makes me this way... but I tend to have very all-or-nothing views in certain areas.

My eating system operates on the glycemic index. I have done a lot of blood-sugar checking in the past to test my body's response to certain foods, and since I pretty much eat the same things most days, I don't need to check all the time.  On cheat days or when eating new foods, I will check out of curiosity more than anything.  I don't eat foods that increase my blood sugar over 100 mg/dl. Nothing I eat really raises it much, except nuts maybe. Elevated blood sugar=insulin spike=fat storage for me. Of course, there are exceptions to this - for example after doing a hard workout, a lot of people like to eat carbs/fructose to replenish glucose stores, and I am not against this because it's going right into your muscles anyway - just don't take in more than you need.

For me though, I have altered my body's system to where it burns fat primarily for fuel - not carbs.  Because of my lower carb diet - I have trained my body to operate like this. Most people favor burning carbs - which is efficient and not bad... but for people like me who like to store everything as fat... burning fat for fuel is where it's my opinion. LOL 

I have also asked one of my professors about my diet and if there are any dangers involved in primarily burning fat for fuel (I can't think of any, but it helps to get an expert opinion, right? LOL) he seems to think it works very well for me and I shouldn't change anything.  So, that is the name of the game, finding a system that works for your own body.

Don't get me wrong - I am not "carb-phobic." I eat around 100 grams of carb a day (average American eats 300-350) but mine are from beans, nuts and vegetables.

As for dairy - I've never been a big fan. I have hated milk since I was a child, so I don't miss it. I think dairy is overrated, personally. I get plenty of calcium through other foods. I find it to be irritating to my digestive system and makes me bloated and sluggish. Yogurt is ok in my opinion ONLY if it's the plain variety - because it contains healthy bacteria - probiotics. I did make a mental note to start eating some for this reason... but haven't gotten around to it. Sadly, most yogurt on the store shelves (Activia, Yoplait, etc. ) is swimming with sugar - about 25 g per serving - so be careful!

I do eat eggs (yolks included... they have a lot of healthy minerals - choline-) you cannot get elsewhere - and the cholesterol argument is old and flawed. Yes, eggs have a lot of cholesterol, but EATING it will not necessarily raise your blood cholesterol. Eating refined carbs will. Yolks also raise levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. I eat a lot of eggs and my cholesterol is 155.

I also eat butter.. not tons, but a tablespoon or so per serving. Butter/fat helps me feel satiated and I find I NEED this. The low fat route sucks and doesn't work for me. Fat is essential and necessary for cell function. My diet is probably 40% fat. If you get a chance, rent the documentary "Fathead." Amazing. Shatters old beliefs/myths about fat making you fat.

I don't eat grains much for the same reason as dairy - they make me feel bloated and give me terrible stomach cramps and pain.  I used to eat a huge baggie of Triscuits every day at work - and every afternoon I would be doubled over with stomach pain.  Guess what? I quit eating them and the pain went away.  Grains just seem irritating to my system or something! I feel so much better when I am just eating protein, veg and beans.. I have tons of energy and my system seems to run much smoother.

Another thing that helps burn fat is to make sure you're eating a high protein breakfast as soon after you wake up as possible - say 30 grams or so. This will help you burn more fat throughout the day.

Sometimes it sucks to think about food all the time... I wish I could just be a regular person in life who eats and doesn't think about.   My husband is funny like that. He tells me, "here's my diet plan. I get hungry. I eat. I wait a while. I get hungry again, so I eat." Simple. haha.  He has a reserve problem, though, wanting to PUT ON WEIGHT... so he has the same fixation... just opposite of mine... haha

I guess it comes from years of being fat and then years of losing and regaining... I don't want to go through that again... and now that I've found what works for me, I don't have to!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Works for Me

I saw this lady at the mall last week...she was pushing a stroller with two kids and dragging a third by the hand. This woman was morbidly obese, trying to manage these three kids by herself.  We went into the same shoe store. I watched her struggling to bend down and put shoes on her kids' feet.  Every movement seemed to require a great effort.

I observed her discreetly and felt a huge amount of empathy. Being fat is hard. Caring for kids by yourself is hard, doing it carrying around an extra 200 pounds is next to impossible.

Being in her presence really drove home the fact that I REALLY REALLY want to help people live healthier lives. I watched her and I felt her pain, I mean I could relate. I think my history of being fat and overcoming it is almost more remarkable than my decision to quit drinking. Both were addictions I struggled to beat. The thing with food of course, though, is that you cannot just "stop eating."

I was overweight most of my life up until I turned 30 and decided some drastic things needed to happen. I wouldn't have been categorized as "morbidly obese," but carrying 185 pounds on a 5'3" frame definitely made life difficult.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the days when I struggled to lose weight, to find motivation to exercise and to stick with my resolve to lead a healthier life. I can remember thinking, "I just wish someone would give me something that would work. If I could JUST SEE RESULTS, I would stick with it."  I was super motivated to lose weight, which was probably why I tried so many things. So many things that didn't work. If someone had just been able to give me the secret...

Do I have the secret now? Well, sort of. Partially, maybe. At the very least, I have something that works for me, after years of trial and error.

Soooo.... here's a list of things that DON'T work for me...

1. Relying on diet pills to lose/maintain.
2. Telling myself I can "NEVER" have a certain food.
3. Obsessing over the scale.
4. Beating myself up for missing a workout.
5. Requiring myself to exercise every single day.
6. Being rigid and inflexible. (overly strict)

Here's what DOES work for me...
1. Allowing myself "cheat" meals each week. I eat clean, to the best of my ability, Sun-Thurs.  Friday is designated a "squishy" day. This means I do "soft" cheating. LOL It is certainly not a "whole-hog" day - but I do allow myself a few deviations from my regular diet. A few examples are, sugar-free vanilla lattes from McDonald's (I usually avoid artificial sweeteners) protein bars (I usually avoid packaged food of all kinds unless it is a "cheat" day) my favorite protein bars are from GNC. They're called "Oh Yeah" in the peanut butter variety. Seriously, it tastes like a Kit Kat with peanut butter - I adore the taste and texture. I also like the Supreme Protein bars. Tastes like a candy bar and does not raise my blood sugar - although they do contain chemicals/additives which can throw off the body's natural fat-burning hormones - so these are a treat, not a staple of my diet.  I only eat them 1-2 days/week. Other "squishy" day favorites include peanut butter, almonds, other nuts, raisins and Carb Smart ice cream...another fave that does not raise blood sugar!

Saturdays are my "free" day. This is a work in progress. Some days, I go "whole-hog," where I overdo it, feel sick and have a food hangover the next day. This probably happens every third Saturday. I do try to be thoughtful about my food choices because I enjoy it much more when I put thought into what I want.  I always start the day with my normal, healthy protein breakfast and do an extra long workout as "insurance."  Then, if possible, I enjoy my cheat foods between noon and early evening and stop eating after that to minimize the damage.  For example, this past Saturday, my cheats were 4 Girl Scout cookies (PB patties), 3 pieces of Tombstone pizza, a handful of chips (stale, ugh!) and a huge bowl of Carb Smart.  I thought later it would've been really good to crush up some Thin Mint cookies in the Carb Smart...maybe next week.  I was really happy with my control on this day - I didn't go overboard - but still got to have what I wanted! (I ate my normal "clean" foods for my other meals). I also felt great the next day. 

I've been having weekly cheat days for two months now, (I NEVER used to do that - I was always too afraid of weight gain) and I've actually LOST a few pounds! So it's definitely not hurting me - and my brain hates long-term deprivation - so it's a great solution.  I used to get bummed because I wouldn't allow myself to enjoy the little treats in life that other people take part in seemingly without thinking. For example, my husband and I used to like going to the DQ on Friday nights, get a treat and drive around our neighborhood. A simple little pleasure. Well, I would always force myself to have a "crappy" treat, like a fat-free fudge bar or something.. what fun is that??? hahaha I was so fearful that having what I REALLY wanted (a peanut buster parfait) would totally derail my progress and make me gain millions of pounds. Realistic, right? haha!! Well, I was really sucking the fun out of life by NEVER allowing myself to have a treat. If I want a piece of cake at my kid's birthday party, well damnit, I'm going to have it and NOT feel bad about it.  Now that I allow myself  "fun" foods, I feel like I'm even more disciplined during the week, because I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel...AND I have proven to myself that a couple of treats per week will NOT lead to weight gain, as long as I stick to my plan the rest of the time.  Not only that, but after a day of indulging, I cannot WAIT to get back on my regular food plan. I always have a kick-ass workout on Sundays, too... to burn off some extra stores :)

3. Drinking water. I used to HATE drinking water...thought it was boring, time consuming and disliked making frequent trips to the bathroom. LOL  Well, I have read a lot lately about the importance of water. Water flushes out your liver, which plays a huge role in fat metabolism/storage. If your liver is not functioning properly, it cannot effectively do its job! Now I carry water with me at all times to ensure my liver can be a fat-burning machine.

4.  I do not expect things to happen overnight. My old dieting days were always filled with despair because I wanted things to happen instantly. I was going for a quick fix and not a lifelong plan I could live with. Now, I honestly feel like I am working a plan I can live with. 

5. I am not a slave to the scale or the measuring tape. (or the calipers!) I really try not to weigh myself more than once a week. The scale is just another measurement tool and there are great fluctuations in weight due to food, hydration, menstrual cycle, time of day...etc.  If I stay within a 5 lb window, I feel I am doing fine. Seriously, I used to FREAK OUT if my weight was up a pound or two one day...thinking I was surely on the fast track to fatsville.

6. I take days off from working out. There was a time when I ran EVERY DAY for an entire year. I did not give myself one day off. Ridiculous. That was getting a bit obsessive. Plus, I didn't lose any weight!!! I think it was all the cortisol I was flooding my system with!  My current schedule is running  Sat/Sun/Tues/Thurs and weight training on two of those days.  I very rarely take more than two days off in a row from working out...usually I work out every other day and try to be active on the other days. This is not hard for me to do since I have two small kids and a house to keep up... plus hiking around campus is good exercise, too!

6.  It's a constant battle - but I have learned portion control.  I start out a meal with about half as much as I think I need, and I try to eat mindfully.  I CHEW my food thoroughly (what a concept) and drink water with my meal.  If I think I want more, I try to make a conscious effort to wait about 15 minutes before I get seconds, so I can see if I am TRULY full.  This has worked wonders for me, this "delaying gratification." A lot of my feeding behavior before used to be very reflexive and impulsive, I would grab food and shove it in my mouth without thinking.  Now I also try to avoid eating in my car and other places where I don't have to pay attention.

7.  I avoid "white stuff" like the plague.  That means all sugar, white bread, pasta, starch, refined carbs...etc. Sugar/junk carbs-> insulin spike-> fat storage for me.  I also pretty much avoid grains... not necessarily because I think they are "bad," more because of how they make me feel - bloated, sluggish, not good. (unless it is Saturday of course and then all bets are off :D

8. I don't drink (as most of you know) and try to avoid other chemicals (over the counter meds, cough syrup, artificial anything).  Alcohol slows down your metabolism, taxes your liver and is a zero-elimiation substance - meaning your body must get rid of it before it will use any other calories for energy.

Yeah, it sucks to think about food all the time, and believe me, I do. I guess that comes from being a former fat person, I constantly think I am going to LOSE IT (my fitness, that is) although I know that is not possible as long as I continue eating right and exercising.

I found an old diet log from 3 years ago - and I actually weigh 10 pounds less right now than I did at the time of writing that log - and I've had TWO kids since then! I was pretty amazed by that!  Oh yeah, I also keep diet logs from time to time... which I despise. hahaha. I know all the "experts" suggest it's a great tool for keeping weight off - but since I basically eat the same things day after day, I don't see much point in it - however I do it from time to time just to get a sense of what I am eating.  In fact, I did it last week, and found my average calorie intake per day is 1952 kcals. Whoopie.

Soooo.... I can say I have kept my weight off successfully for 8 years by doing the above things...and a few more.  I'm never there, though... I'm always reaching for something else.

The more I think of it though... the more I think I want to help people develop a plan that will work for them... so they don't have to carry around extra baggage and be miserable.

Friday, January 7, 2011

4-Hour Body

The last thing I needed was another "diet" book.

I have many weight loss/fitness/lifestyle books lining the shelves of my bookcase.  South Beach, Total Metabolism, Atkins New Diet Revolution, The Primal Blueprint, Exercising Through Your Pregnancy...even Richard Simmons and Susan Powter (who I love).  I've taken bits, pieces and helpful pearls of wisdom from each and incorporated them into my daily lifestyle.  Some are better than others, and some methods I have extracted have helped me immensely.

I've tried a number of "diets" over the years...starting at age 8 when my mom decided we were going on a weight loss plan.  We decided to weigh and measure ourselves each week and stood in the living room dutifully performing arm circles, torso twists and side bends. We danced in front of the T.V. to "American Bandstand."  ("you can do side bends and sit ups, but please don't lose that butt!")  My mother was well-intentioned and was trying to help me lose weight, but sadly, I got fatter and more discouraged...even when I tried to slim down by eating instant oatmeal, low fat turkey sandwiches and frozen diet dinners.  I just couldn't stick with it - because I was always ravenous.  I would quickly return to my breakfasts of Cream-of-Wheat with heavy cream for breakfast, fattening and nutritionally-devoid school lunch at noon, afterschool snacks of buttered popcorn and bowls of Cap'N Crunch, and good old fashioned Minnesota hot dish for dinner - usually topped off with pudding or ice cream for dessert.  Meanwhile, I continued to damage my metabolism and decrease my insulin sensitivity.  Although I never checked, I am guessing I was pre-diabetic.  Not surprisingly I got fatter and fatter...existing on all these empty carbs and convenience foods that pack the shelves of the American grocery store and keep the insulin (fat storage hormone) flowing.

This continued until 8th grade - when I decided I was sick of being fat.  I was convinced that the best and fastest way to lose weight would be to starve myself - so I put myself on a ridiculous near-fast that consisted of 290 calories per day.  I ate yogurt, apples, diet Shasta and sugarless gum - and that was about all.  I stuck to this eating plan with militant self-control for about 2 months and rapidly lost 25 pounds. As you can imagine, this "lifestyle" was nearly impossible to maintain. I was constantly starving and obsessed with food.  In 10th grade, after getting down to an all-time low of 120 pounds, I learned to binge and purge.  I guess I did not meet criteria for bulimia as I only did this maybe 1-2 times per week, but it wasn't healthy by any means.  I also experimented with syrup of Ipecac to induce vomiting, but the after effects were so distressing that I only did this a couple of times.

After high school, I got a job at a convenience store and was introduced to the world of stimulants. We sold a product called Ephedrine (truck stop speed), and some of my co-workers took it to stay awake during their night shifts.  I had gained most of my weight back through a steady diet of Deli Express and Little Debbies and found a pleasant side effect of ephedrine - no appetite.  I rapidly dropped weight again.  I then began experimenting with all sorts of products containing ephedrine - from Diet Fuel to Hydroxycut to the famed ECA stack.  Of course, I saw rapid weight loss and was down to 113 pounds in no time.  However, I was weak, irritable, anxious and definitely not healthy.  Still, I thought ephedrine was heaven-sent - and was completely convinced that I would need to take it for the rest of my life.

I only maintained my 113 pound body for about a year - despite my stringent efforts. Much to my chagrin - I started GAINING weight.  I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  Looking back, I can see I was deluding myself - I was drinking 3-4 nights per week and eating fast food at least a couple of those nights. I was still taking ephedrine, but it no longer produced the desired effects because I had built such a tolerance.  Even 12-15 pills per day produced little to no effect.

I stuck my head in the sand and stopped weighing myself, as my life spiraled out of control.  I bought "forgiving" clothes like exercise pants, leggings and shorts.  I didn't want to know how much weight I had gained.  This went on for a year. Of course I could tell I was gaining weight - but I didn't realize HOW MUCH.  I stepped on the scale in November of 1999 and was delivered a shocking revelation.  I weighed 185 pounds.  I was completely horrified. How had this happened???

Well, after that I decided to try "Body for Life" by Bill Phillips.  I was completely transfixed by the before and after pictures of the people who had completed the program...and was determined to follow his plan to the letter.  I did - and lost 22 pounds - but then I quit. 

Blah.  I stayed "stuck" until September of 2003 - when I started running, and this kick started my weight loss once again, but as I will discuss later, somewhat became an obsession of sorts.  The running starting moving the scale and the measuring tape down - 30 pounds or so over a couple of years - then it plateaued once more.  Hmmm... "must do more exercise," I told myself, but it didn't seem to be working.

Weight training? The whole, "build more muscle, burn more fat" motto???  I got P90X in February of 2009 and completed two back-to-back rounds.  It is an awesome program, and I saw great results. I continue to incorporate some of my favorite workouts each week.  My only gripe with P90X is that it is somewhat of a time investment, and I don't always have an hour or more to work out each day.  I want to do the most I can do in the least amount of time and see the best results I can.  Does that make sense?  "Don't do as much as possible. Do as little as necessary."  Less is more.

In August, I gave birth to my third child, a beautiful baby girl.  Within days, I started back on my exercise/restriction bandwagon - and it worked beautifully for a few months.  I lost all the baby weight and more - plus got down to new lows of weight and fat percentage - but then plateaued.  And not only that, something was STILL wrong in my head.  I kept asking myself, more and more, can I live my life like this, counting stupid calories/carbs, running miles and miles around a track, resigning myself to NEVER overeating (must not enjoy anything "off limits" - as it will surely lead to disaster)???

It didn't even seem like my body was even changing anymore, despite all my hard work and effort.  I'm sure you've all heard the saying "insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results."  That's exactly what I was doing.  For six weeks, NOTHING moved... not the scale, not the tape measure, not the body fat.  Still, I didn't deviate from my stupid regime - I just ran more miles round and round the track.  STILL NO CHANGES.  I was afraid to do anything differently!!!

Here is where "The 4-Hour Body" comes in. 

The week of Christmas, I was shopping in Barnes and Noble to pick up some books for my kids.  As I walked to the front of the store to check out, I passed by a large table of glossy books and paused momentarily to glance over them. I reminded myself that I wasn't "shopping for me," but still this "4-Hour Body" book caught my eye.  I picked it up and flipped through it while waiting to check out.

The line on the front cover caught my attention.  "A practical crash course in how to reinvent yourself."  Ok, now you've got my attention.  I flipped open to a chapter called "Damage Control."  "preventing fat gain when you binge." HUH?  I decided I was going home with this book. 

Other chapters which captivated me:

The Minimum Effective Dose (for exercise).
Everything Popular is Wrong
The Slow Carb Diet (I and II)
The Four Horsemen of Fat Loss (PAGG stack - like the ECA stack but NONSTIMULANT!)
The Glucose Switch: Beautiful Number 100

And many more.

I started the "slow carb" diet 2 weeks ago. I eat basically organic meat and eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, nut butter, spinach and other vegetables 6 days per week. I eat every few hours, as much as I want to be satisfied.  On the 7th day, your "free day" you eat WHATEVER you want. No limits.

"Body for Life" had a free day, too. I have always been afraid of free day, that it would thwart all my hard work. As explained in the 4-Hour Body, it is important to spike calories once a week because it causes a "host of hormonal changes that improve fat-loss, from increasing cAMP and GMP to improving the conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone to the more active T3."

Common concerns:
"Don't you need fruit???" No. Cavemen didn't eat fruit year-round either, and weren't feasting on fat Florida oranges in the middle of January.  Too much fructose = triglycerides (via the liver) = fat storage. (the exception to this would be consuming fruit in the 30 minute window following an intense workout).

"Don't you eat dairy?? What about calcium?!"  Interestingly, the calcium in milk isn't that readily absorbed - even though everyone always touts the wonderful benefits of milk. Not to mention milk being heavily pasteurized. To tell you the truth, I have hated milk since I was a child, and quit drinking it when I was 2 (according to my mother..LOL)  A cup of spinach (which I eat frequently) has almost as much calcium as a cup of milk, and almonds are a great source, too.
Oh, there are many other concerns... but my hands are getting tired of typing, so I will address those at another time.

Anyway, I had a huge food fest on Christmas Day, and enjoyed every minute of it.  I then started the food plan (I won't call it a diet) Dec. 26. I lost 1 pound the first week, then had another cheat day on New Year's Day, then lost 3 pounds the second week! 

I know some of you are thinking, "why are you trying to lose weight."  I'm not, necessarily. I want to lose fat and to get ripped, so if you want to fault me for that, go ahead.  I want a superhuman body, a body that performs better than it ever has at the age of 38.  I want to run a 6:30 mile. 

Where I am right now - I've been here before.  I want to go where I've never been. Six (or pack I come.  Am I starving myself??? NO.  In fact, I am eating way more than ever, AND exercising LESS.  That's right. I am now doing H.I.I.T. (high-intensity interval training) instead of my usual "chronic cardio." My average workout session is 30-45 mins, every other day.  That's it.  I have long read about the benefits of HIIT but have been too afraid to deviate from my mindless running.  Now I can see that it works, because I am already faster than before - in just two weeks.  There is a study in the book that compared 280 seconds of HIIT to 6 HOURS of long-distance running... and the effect was almost the SAME.  Holy festivus!

And the cheat day.  What glory. To actually be able to enjoy "bad" food and not have horrible guilt afterwards.  It's awesome.

As you can see - I've had a lifelong battle with weight, food, exercise and restriction - and have never quite been able to find balance in these worlds.  I think I've finally found the answer to a problem I've been struggling with for 30 years -  and quite frankly I am ecstatic!!!

My yo-yo dieting has caused me much heartache and grief over the years... and being fat is no fun for anyone.  Many of you know about my alcohol-abusive past - but my history of overcoming being fat and inactive is perhaps even more noteworthy.  It's hard because a person can quit drinking alcohol - but you can't stop eating!  I am sharing the information in the 4-Hour Body because it has helped free me from some of my obsessive behaviors.

I never thought in a million years that I could be fit and athletic.  It's never too late to change your life...and there's no reason to fall back into old habits. The key for me was finding something reasonable that I could live with.  It may seem restrictive to some - but for me, following the food plan all week long is no problem when I know I've got a "cheat" day waiting at the end of the tunnel!