Joy, frustration, and some lessons learned from running…

Hiya!  I’m writing from my hotel room in Boulder, Colorado, with a gorgeous view of the (I’m not sure which) mountains in the distance:

I got here last night after spending a week in Seattle with my nephews (more about that in a minute).  The drive from the Denver airport was spectacular – as if someone had scheduled a glorious sunset to celebrate my arrival:

 

It was such a jaw-droppingly amazing sight that I actually had to pull the car over to let myself drink it all in.  These pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice, and the 40 mile drive to my hotel was over way too soon.  Being around so much natural beauty puts me in such a blissful, joyful, peaceful state of mind – I wasn’t even slightly upset when I accidentally drove through a toll without paying (note to self, I need to call those Go-Pass people and figure out what to do – and hope they don’t charge me a fine!).

This morning I went for a run along the Boulder Creek:

More gorgeous-ness.  Ahhhh.  I did find out that running at 5000+ feet altitude is much harder than running at sea level.  I was sucking wind after about a half mile and had to spend most of my 3.5 mile adventure doing walk/run intervals.

Unfortunately, today is my last day of holiday before getting back to work – I’m here on business and have a meeting at 7:30 tonight but there’s still a few hours left for fun today! So I’m going to make the most of this afternoon and walk around the shops of Boulder, check out an art festival down the street, and find a fabulous restaurant for a late lunch.

Last week my husband and I had the pleasure of spending a week in Seattle watching his sister’s children while she was out of town.  We stayed at their home in Capitol Hill and played parents for the week – getting them up and ready for school, making lunches, cooking dinner, doing laundry, signing permission slips, helping with homework, etc. Neither of us has ever been inclined to have kids, and this was a completely new experience for both of us.  To our delight, we had a great time hanging out with the boys (12 and 15) and were really sad when our week ended and it was time to go.

During our few free moments we managed to get some time to run in a couple different locations, and even met up with a local legend, Barefoot Ted (more about that in a different post).  Here’s one of my favorite runs around Green Lake:

It’s about 3 miles around and the views are spectacular.  There were lots of people out and about and with the nice cool weather that Seattle had last week it was a perfect workout.

But despite all the fun & excitement in my life lately, I’m still struggling with food.  I dropped out of WW thinking that the diet mentality was getting to me.  After a few weeks of adjusting, I managed to get myself back into a nice routine and got back down to my lowest WW weight of 209.  Unfortunately, for the past few weeks I’ve been having a hard time sticking to my guiding principles – lots of fruit & veg, portion control, only eating when hungry – and I have to say I’ve really been eating out of control.  I’m sure part of this is due to being away from home, but honestly I had no excuse last week.  We went shopping at Whole Foods and bought all my standard go-to foods, and only ate out a couple times.  But instead of making myself a smoothie every morning, I walked down to the local coffee shop and came back with pastries in addition to my coffee.  I also had a couple glasses of wine every evening (which is not part of my normal routine) and portion control went completely out the window.  My pants are starting to feel a little snug and I’m getting a little worried that I won’t be able to steer myself back on course!

In fact, to be totally honest, I’m really worried.  It seemed like the last 40 pounds just sort of fell away but now I’ve hit a plateau.  Not a physical plateau, where I’m eating in control but my weight has stalled, but more like a mental plateau.  I can’t seem to get back into my groove!  The choices I’m making are out of alignment with my goals but it seems like I’m compelled to eat ‘just one more treat before I get back on track’.  This is such a slippery slope and I have GOT to turn it around!

One thing I’ve noticed about myself lately is that although I have a lot of aspirations and goals, I have been spending very little time working on them, and a lot more time doing things that I consider time-wasters.  I constantly think about:

  • Writing more on this blog and the UnDieting Divas blog
  • Becoming certified as a group fitness instructor and teaching a weight lifting class
  • Putting a lot more time into building up the UnDieting Divas support group
  • Designing a proper website for the UnDieting Divas
  • Quitting my job and starting a business as a personal trainer or weight loss counselor
  • Becoming a part-time health and fitness writer
  • Losing the next 60 pounds
  • Running a half-marathon

Instead of doing these things, however, I:

  • Spend a lot of time playing Facebook games
  • Watch endless episodes of Hoarders and What Not To Wear
  • Shop for things I really don’t need
  • Eat when I’m bored, frustrated, sad, etc.

So there you have it.  My reality and my goals are not in alignment and I suspect if I spent more time working on my wish list and less time on the ‘time-waster’ list I would not only make progress towards achieving those goals, but also begin dropping weight again. The things on the second list add no value to my life and I’m not sure why I’m spending so much time on them when I truly want to do the things on the first.  Perhaps it’s because a lot of those goals are far in the distance and seem unattainable in the immediate future – and rather than take put in the effort towards achieving them I decide to ‘numb out’ by doing other things that require no effort at all.

Aside from running regularly, I’m not putting any effort into moving myself forward, and thus I’m stagnating right where I am.  That’s my ‘Aha’ moment right there.  I’m stagnating because it’s easier than moving forwards.

One thing I’ve learned from running over the past 6 months is that you have to start somewhere and every little bit gets you closer to your goal!  I started in March by running 0.5 km at a painfully slow pace, and over the past 6 months I’ve built up to running 5 km at a less painfully slow pace…and instead of thinking about how far I had to go, I just focused on completing each workout to the best of my ability.  Progress happened when I took things slowly and didn’t try to do everything at once – and it also happened because I was consistent in my efforts – I ran 3 times per week with no exceptions – I ran even when I didn’t feel like running – and it paid off.

There’s a real lesson for me there – I need to pick a couple of my goals and divide them up into smaller, manageable chunks, and then focus just on those pieces without worrying about the endpoint.  And I need to make sure I spend time each day working towards those goals instead of just saying ‘oh, I can do it tomorrow’.  While I’m wandering around Boulder today I’m going to give it some thought – and I’ll post my plan this evening!

What about you – what do you do when you feel like you’re doing the exact opposite of what you want to do?

 

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The Power of Suggestion Works Both Ways

For the past week I’ve made several food choices that really don’t support my health and fitness goals. Saturday morning I had a great run (3 amazing miles in my Vibram Five Fingers!) and after an impromptu shopping trip to get my husband a pair for himself, we decided to stop at a local restaurant.  Hungry from my tough morning workout, I ate waaaay too much pizza.  Instead of compensating by eating less over the next couple days, I found myself in the middle of a junk food extravaganza on Sunday – more pizza, cupcakes and ice cream.  Since then I’ve been struggling to get back into my routine and found myself eating an enormous lunch on Wednesday – so much food that I was still full 8 hours later.  To top it off, the supply of standard healthy fare in our house has dwindled due to an impending trip.  The result? Scavenging handfuls of peanuts from the pantry, lots of pasta, and very few fruits and veggies.  And of course a complete lack of energy and motivation.

This isn’t a confession – I know that I’ll succumb to this type of temptation from time to time and that I’ll always get back on track.  There’s no guilt, just acknowledgment that I’m human!

Here’s the good part – as I was trying to decide what to have for dinner tonight – a huge takeout order of Indian food from the place around the corner was silently calling my name – a commercial for McDonald’s came on TV.  Normally, this would make me think about eating a nice, juicy burger with some french fries on the side (but NOT from McDonald’s).  But this commercial was for one of the new McD’s smoothies and I was suddenly hit with a craving for blended fruit (again, NOT from McDonald’s – their smoothies are full of chemicals, ick!).  So instead of ordering Indian takeout I scavenged up all of the fresh and frozen fruit in the house and made a double portion smoothie. Yum!  And I was no longer interested in greasy takeout food.  I followed the smoothie with a piece of whole grain toast spread with cashew butter and dinner was complete.

What did I learn from this?  The power of suggestion is strong – but it works both ways.  I might experiment with this effect in the future – next time I’m jonesing for high calorie food, I’m going to look at pictures of clean, healthy food and see if I can turn the craving around!

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I Believe…

…in redefining my impossible.

I ran across this video today and it truly inspired me – just had to share it!

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Flavor of the Week

The start of the SheRox Philly 2011 triathlon is less than 24 hours away and I’m ready. Hmm, let me rephrase that…I’m mentally ready.  My training has been haphazard this summer, and my bags aren’t packed, BUT my mind is in the right mental space for this event and although there are a few little butterflies in my tummy overall I’m excited for a fun workout tomorrow.

All week I’ve been carefully choosing foods intended to stoke the fire – lots of lean protein, fruits & veggies, very few refined carbs, no alcohol and NO cheese puffs.  There has been a small treat each day (like a few bites of pecan pie at book club on Thursday) and overall it’s been a great food week. Last night I decided to have whole wheat pasta with some veggies for dinner – it was a lot of calories but since I’m trying to fuel up I decided it was OK.  Believe me, I’ll work it off on Sunday!

After dinner I was pleasantly full and contemplating having a bite of chocolate to finish the meal, when my husband came home from the gym…with a HUGE DAIRY QUEEN BLIZZARD in his hand!  He had a coupon, and decided to surprise me.  I was stopped dead in my tracks.  An enormous Nutter Butter Blizzard (the flavor of the week!) had just come into my world…and like a deer caught in the headlights, I just didn’t know what to do.  He gave me an odd look and put it in the freezer, then left the room.

It’s been years since I’ve had a DQ Blizzard.  They have a million calories, and of course have a million chemicals.  And I’m not even sure if there’s any real dairy products in one. But last night, none of that mattered.  I tiptoed over to the freezer and peeked in.  He’d put a plastic bag over the top so I had to take it out of the freezer to get a better look.  I put it on the counter and next thing I knew there was a spoon in my hand and almost half of it was gone!  Yikes!  With each sweet, delicious, creamy bite I thought about what I was putting into my body but the flavor & texture triggered some sort of reaction in my brain and I. Just. Couldn’t. Stop.  It was THAT GOOD.  There were whole Nutter Butter cookies swirled around with peanut butter and vanilla ice cream…sigh…it was just me and the Blizzard, and nothing else existed in my world for about 90 seconds.  Fortunately, my husband walked in the room and said ‘mmm, I want a bite’. He took the spoon, had a small taste, handed it back to me and walked away.  The spell was broken.  I put away the remnants of the treat and said to him ‘Don’t ever bring one of those into this house again.’

I tossed and turned all night, waking up every couple hours feeling incredibly guilty about my lapse in judgment.  This morning, the guilt has faded, and my rational side has reasserted itself. But I’m still bothered about having such a primal reaction – I imagine it was very much like a crack addict feels in the throes of addiction, incapable of exerting their own will and walking away from the drug.  If my husband hadn’t appeared at that moment to break the spell, I have no doubt that I would have eaten the entire thing in a trance.

A few years ago I read a book by David Kessler called ‘The End of Overeating‘.  Dr. Kessler explains how humans are wired to crave sugar, salt and fat…and then explains how the food industry exploits this trait and creates flavor and texture combinations that trigger a nearly involuntary reaction and cause us to eat and eat, well past the point of fullness and satiety.  It makes a lot of sense to me, especially after last night’s experience. There are only a few foods that cause me to react this way, and ice cream is one of them – which is the reason we don’t keep anything but plain old vanilla in the house (for some reason I can leave a pint of Ben & Jerry’s alone for weeks on end if it’s vanilla – but any other flavor is usually gone in a matter of days…or hours).

After months of eating mindfully most of the time, my Blizzard experience was a great reminder of why I’ve chosen to keep that type of food out of the house and generally out of my life.  It’s not just the calories – I can work those off with a 3 mile run – it’s that I can’t stop eating after just one bite.  Seriously, I just can’t.  Cheesecake, pasta, even my beloved cheese puffs…I will definitely overeat these foods if given the chance…but they don’t affect me the way ice cream does.  I can stop after a serving (usually it’s two or three) but the point is, I can stop.  It might be because they require a bit more work to consume and don’t just slide down my gullet without any resistance, or it might be that those foods just don’t have the right combination of taste and texture to trigger me into a trance.  Dunno.  But if my husband ever brings another Blizzard into the house, I’m grabbing my purse and running out the front door until it is gone!

What about you?  Have you identified any trigger foods in your life, something that you just can’t stop eating once you’ve had that first bite?

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Why This Goddess Loves To Run

I saw this posted on the internet today and it made me laugh right out loud.  You see, I’m a slow runner.  Really slow.  As in “most people can walk faster than I can run” slow.  My 5K time is close to 45 minutes and I have this sort of shuffling gait that uses the absolute minimum amount of energy to keep me technically running but not much more.  75-year old women and mothers pushing double strollers have passed me in races.  Yes, I’m that slow.  But I am undeniably faster than someone sitting on the couch!

As time passes, and my weight continues to drop, and my body gets more and more accustomed to running I know I’ll get faster.  But right now, I kinda like being a slowpoke.  There’s no pressure when you’re behind everyone else.  Nobody expects you to win or even place.  It’s always easy to beat your last time.  If you take a walk break, there’s nobody around to see you.   Most people don’t realize it because they are too busy trying to shave 30 seconds off their time, but the back of the pack is a great place to be.

There are so many reasons I love running.  For starters, it torches calories like you wouldn’t believe, and I always feel good afterwards.  But really, it’s the little things that keep me coming back over and over:

  • The feeling I get when I’m in the car, listening to the radio, and one of my favorite running songs comes on…and suddenly I can’t wait to get home and go for a run.  That’s a great feeling.
  • Early mornings, just after the sun rises and nobody else is up…that’s my favorite time of day in general and when I’m able to run at that time, well, I feel like the entire world was created just for me.
  • The euphoria that washes over me when I’ve gotten my breathing and feet perfectly into sync and there’s a light breeze blowing and the perfect running song comes on my iPod…ahhhh, sheer perfection.
  • Becoming so engrossed in my thoughts that I forget what I’m doing and end up running farther than I thought I could.
  • Running outdoors, on a quiet day, without music and just listening to the sound of my feet and my breathing and giving thanks to the Universe for blessing me with a body that has taken a lot of abuse and is still able to bounce back and thrive.

This list has nothing to do with my speed or skill as a runner and everything to do with leaving the competition behind and enjoying running for exactly what it is, right in that moment.  Being a slow runner has forced me to think about running differently than other people.  For example, I aspire to run a 13 minute mile someday, which is painfully slow to most runners.  But it’s clear to me that my speed (or lack thereof) is actually a gift, one that has allowed me to truly experience the joy of running without the burden of competition.  If I choose to compete, it’s with myself and nobody else.  My performance is all my own and I’m on a completely level playing field. There’s no feeling like it in the world – once the expectations are removed, it’s unbelievably easy to just experience the joy of movement and the freedom to test your limits without fear of failure.  It’s almost decadent.

In the sport of running, race organizers love to put entrants into buckets.  There are buckets for pro, elite, age group, masters, and so on.  Some races line you up at the starting line according to your expected pace.  And then there are the races with categories for heavier men and women: Clydesdale and Athena.

I think the men got the short end of the stick here.  While a Clydesdale most certainly represents strength and power, it also evokes the picture of an enormous beast of burden clomping around on huge feet and dragging a wagon of beer.  But a Greek Goddess? Heck yeah!  A voluptuous woman in long flowing robes, wavy hair cascading down her back, a benevolent smile upon her face…that’s a nice image.  Perhaps I should be insulted at the thought of being put in a separate athletic category because I weigh more than 150 pounds, but the goddess association kinda takes the sting out of it.

Athena runners aren’t all slow, and not all slow runners are Athenas.  I will probably always be both.  Athena was the goddess of many things, including Wisdom, Strategy and Strength.  Her best buddy was Nike, goddess of Victory.  I’m happy to be associated with either of these lovely ladies, I’m happy to be slow, and I’m happy to be a runner.

 

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Philosophy 101

The UnDieting Divas have a philosophy of healthy living to share with you – check it out HERE.

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You Are Beautiful :)

Check out my post over at UnDieting Divas about weight loss compliments and join the conversation!

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Why I Quit Weight Watchers

So…it’s been well over a month since I last weighed in at WW.   I’ve officially cancelled my membership.  Why, you might ask, did I do such an abrupt turnaround?  Things were going so well!  What happened!?!

You’re right – things were going very well!  I was losing weight almost every week and eating lots of good healthy food, as well as getting a ton of activity.  And honestly, that hasn’t changed, for the most part (well except for the losing weight – I’m the same weight now I was 3 weeks ago – but I’m OK with that!).

Still, I felt it was time to move on, for the following reasons:

First, my travel schedule was starting to interfere with going to meetings on a regular basis.  I was frequently missing my Saturday meetings and having to weigh in on Friday. But the Friday meeting wasn’t til 9:30 am, which kinda interfered with my work schedule. It became easy to find excuses to skip…

Secondly, the weekly meeting topics weren’t really doing anything for me anymore. There never seemed to be enough time for honest discussion – and too much time spent going over low-point food finds (usually over-processed frozen treats rather than fresh fruits and veggies), getting all the members seated and trying to keep everyone from having a million side conversations.

But the real reason was that a weekly weigh-in was triggering my ‘diet mentality’.  I was living week to week and trying to do things on the day or so before my weigh-in to ensure a good week.  Like avoiding certain foods to keep from retaining fluids.  Or avoiding alcohol on those nights.  Or skipping dinner on Friday nights if I’d really overindulged that week.  You get the picture.  The scale was becoming too important and as a result I was starting to exhibit some of the behaviors that have caused me to fail in the past – binging and starving, feeling guilty, and sneaking food when nobody was around to see.

During this time I also started listening to the Fat2Fit Radio podcasts, which made me rethink my approach to weight loss.  Their premise is simple: eat as if you’re already at the weight you want to be.  Live the lifestyle of a thin, healthy person and eventually you will become that person.

So simple, yet so incredibly powerful!  I decided that a thin, healthy person wouldn’t obsess over the scale and definitely wouldn’t be exhibiting the behaviors that I was starting to see again in myself. So I decided to adopt their philosophy and just start living like the 150-pound woman I want to be.

After a couple weeks of feeling weird because I wasn’t on a ‘plan’, I started to feel much better – less constrained and definitely not worried about having sushi (a low calorie and healthy meal despite the high sodium soy sauce) on a Friday night.  Seriously, it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders!  I’m still weighing every day, but now it is merely an observation and not a check-point to see whether the WW scale will show a loss in a few days.  There are certainly other methods of tracking progress, such as percentage of body fat, or body measurements, but for right now I feel comfortable with the scale and its place in my life.

I’m also still closely tracking my food every day, because without that touchstone I know I’ll start to overeat.  But instead of being in ‘weight loss mode’ I’ve just set my daily calorie goal to that of an active 150 pound woman – which is a lot more food than I thought it would be!

Don’t get me wrong – Weight Watchers served a very important purpose in my life and I lost 40 pounds by eating yummy, nourishing food and keeping active.  It’s a great program and I would recommend it to many people – but for those of us that have issues with obsessing over the scale, it might not be the best thing.

I do miss the support of a community and that’s why I started up the UnDieting Divas group with a couple friends.  We’re all sick of ‘dieting’ and just want to live our healthy lives without feeling like we’re on or off a plan.  So far we’re having a lot of fun building the website and community and are excited about our first face to face meeting in a couple weeks!  But really, the motivation to keep living healthy has to come from within and that’s what I really need to work on.  I’ve come a long way over the past few years and although I have a long way to go it feels like this lifestyle is here to stay!

 

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Beware Your Chair!

Check out my post on the UnDieting Divas blog this morning about the dangers of sitting!

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The Day of Reckoning

I have been avoiding the scale for a few weeks now.  After a couple months of traveling, long and short trips for both business and pleasure, I’ve been home now for a couple weeks straight and have had plenty of time to slip right back into my nice healthy routine. But for some reason, unlike other times, this hasn’t happened.

My exercise routine hasn’t slipped and I’ve been keeping up with my beloved fruits and veggies pretty well. Unfortunately, everything else seems to be spinning out of control. I got on the scale this morning and I’m up almost 7 pounds in 3 weeks! And I know, in my heart of hearts, that it’s not water weight. Nope, that is Trader Joe’s flatbread, Amy’s organic frozen pizza, a few bags of Whole Foods cheese puffs, an entire loaf of homemade zucchini bread, a package of cupcakes that jumped in my cart when I got too close to the bakery counter…you get the picture.

In short, I’ve been binging almost daily for a few weeks, telling myself every night that I’d get back on the wagon the following day. That a few days of eating treats doesn’t mean I’ve completely lost track of myself, it’s just normal variation in my diet.

Bullshit.

Somewhere back in May, I went on a business trip and had a bad week. I worked hard to get the couple pounds back off and lost a bit more. Then I went out of town for a few more days and had to recover from that. A few more trips and now I seem to have forgotten how to recover and am just looking for excuses to eat whatever I can get my hands on, while simultaneously telling myself it’s not a binge.

I’d like to say the buck stops here.  That this morning, at 4:45 am EST, after seeing 215.4 pounds on the scale a few minutes ago, I am scared straight.  But I’ve learned that declarations like that are meant to be broken, and there are no absolutes on this journey. Except, perhaps, the near certainty that I will struggle with this eating thing for the rest of my (hopefully) long life.

So instead, I’m just putting it down in writing, in hopes of getting it out of my system. I’ll do some thinking about why this is happening, and what I can do to turn things around before I no longer fit into all my lovely new thrift store clothes.  Losing my $4 Levis to a bag of Cheese Puffs would be a crying shame!

I was closing in on 60 pounds lost, but now I’ve knocked myself nearly back to the 50 pound mark.  However, next week is the first UnDieting Divas support group meeting, and we have a fabulous group of women attending.  I know that this bump in the road is intended to open my heart and mind to all the knowledge and support that our amazing members will bring with them!

George S. Patton once said:

I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.

Opportunity, I hear you knocking…

 

 

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