Monday, June 25, 2012

Feeling the Burn

Wow! My legs are sore today. My thighs feel like they're on fire. I'm attributing it to all the yard work on Saturday and biking on Sunday. It was unbelievably disappointing to get on the scale this morning and not see the numbers budge. I'm feeling the pain without the gain! I should really rewrite that last sentence and replace gain with loss. I definitely don't want to see any gain.

My legs are dangling off a loathsome weight loss plateau. The scale refuses to give in, and it's going on a couple weeks. The number moves up slightly and then back down. I usually weigh myself twice in the morning just to make sure the first number I get is valid. Once I stepped on the scale discovering I'd lost 15 pounds overnight. Upon closer inspection I discovered an earring back on the floor under the scale. Boy, that might have been some kind of record for weight lost in a single day if true. I'd make a fortune pedaling a drop it quick diet and exercise plan. Alas, it was a false reading. I wish this plateau was just as bogus!

Frustrated and anxious to get this show on the road I've pushed myself physically over the past week. Believe me I've heard it all before "it's more about losing inches" and "muscle weighs more than fat." I'm sorry, but these simple facts don't salve the irritation especially when I still have 70 pounds to go! Googling weight plateau results in numerous articles about increasing exercise and blaming inaccuracy in food intake recordings. Now's not the time to get lazy! I get it, and I'm not. Although staying positive without the negative feedback from the scale is wearying.

Early on the instant gratification motivated me. During the first month I dropped 20 pounds, and I began working even harder. Since the initial loss it's averaged 8-10 pounds a month. My practical self knows this journey is a long haul. It's a lifestyle change not a mere diet, and once I've finally arrived at the destination the next leg begins. All the while, my foolish self hungers for more immediate results and a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Feeling the burn in my thighs today serves to remind me that I'm building muscle and improving my body composition. Feeling the burn confirms I'm giving this my all. Feeling the burn means I'm making progress even if the scale refuses to show it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Coasting or Climbing

I went for a jog today along a route that I've been frequenting for the past few months. It's 2.6 miles and has some hills. In the beginning I didn't even do the whole route, and I only walked ending up with blisters on my feet and an aching pain in the ball of my foot. Eventually, as the pounds fell away my feet gave me fewer problems.

I downloaded one of those couch to 5K workout plans from the internet and began running in intervals. I began by running a minute, walking five minutes and repeating the interval for 30 minutes. As the weeks progressed so did the length of time running versus walking. Eventually, I was able to run the entire way without stopping. Now, I am by no means fast. Honestly, I should really categorize what I'm doing as a jog. Nonetheless, it is raising my heart rate, and I am burning calories. Running, jogging and walking seem to be helping me reach a better fitness level and lose weight.

Today, I ran in the middle of the day, and it's 95 degrees. I made it about a quarter mile and had to walk a majority of the route. Disappointed, I vowed to finish at least the last mile jogging. Why couldn't I push through the heat and exhaustion and just do it? All I know is that I still managed to burn 350 calories and get some exercise. Some days are harder than others. That's the way it is with my diet, too. What matters is how it all averages out. If there are more good days than bad I know I'll succeed.

I want to mention a couple gadgets I've been using in addition to the iPhone app Calorie Counter PRO by MyNetDiary. I absolutely love the iPhone app Cyclemeter by Abvio. I use it when I run, walk, hike and bike. One of the greatest features is the ability to program intervals. I selected a polite Englishwoman to cut into my music instructing me to "run" and "walk." The app also allows you to program routes, track times and enters it all onto a calendar. It's fun to see the improvement from one month to the next.

The other device I use is a Garmin Forerunner 305. It's a GPS receiver with a wireless heart rate monitor. I usually defer to the Garmin for my actually calories burned since it's actively monitoring my heart rate. I can upload my workout data to my computer and review my stats during the course. I specifically like to see how much I'm pushing my heart rate.

After my walk/jog today I decided to take a bike ride thinking it might make me feel a little better about my poor performance. There is a different route I follow for biking that goes along two different lakes has some long climbs with a couple sections that are great for coasting. As I was slowly climbing a hill, a pack of racers whooshed past me in their skin tight shirts and fancy touring bikes. Here I was listening to music, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the lake, eyeing my speedometer as it hit a whooping six miles per hour, pushing on my pedals with all my might and these guys passed me by so effortlessly. My chest was thundering, knees aching, thighs burning yet by the time I hit the top of the hill those racers had seemingly evaporated. I don't know if I'll ever be able to reach their fitness level. I'm not even sure if my bike will go that fast. I biked 11 miles this afternoon, and I burned 731 calories in an hour.

The exercise today gives me few "extra" calories in my eating plan. So, I plan to reward myself with a small Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cone. In my book, that's a pretty awesome prospect. Even though I'm far from an Olympic athlete I was out there climbing, pushing my body and reaping the rewards. I still prefer the coasting, but I know that in order to make my weight and get fit I need to find the balance.

Crossing My Legs

One of the things I can do now that I've been unable to do for some time is cross my legs. Crossing my legs was virtually impossible and really uncomfortable. At nearly 300 pounds the bulk on my legs and stomach prevented me from enjoying such a seemingly effortless position. Sitting sideways on my hip could get me close. More often than not I tucked my legs to the side or let them fall open if in jeans.

The small wins surrounding my weight loss and fitness goals are beginning to add up. My bike is a lot more comfortable to ride 70 pounds lighter, I don't get winded climbing a flight of stairs and I can't wait for my next plane trip. The last few vacations began by requesting a seat belt extension from a flight attendant. It was embarrassing, and I hated the reminder of my personal failure. I hope to never, ever have to ask for an extender again. I write "hope" because I know that keeping the weight off is going to be an even bigger challenge after losing it.

Right now, I am still in weight loss mode and plan to drop an additional 70 pounds. My ultimate goal is to weigh 150 pounds. For a 5'6" woman this is toward the top of what's considered "normal" weight. I've had two doctors warn me that 150 may be unrealistic for my body makeup, but I think its doable. My immediate objective is to dip under 200 pounds. Then, I want to hit 185 pounds to pull me out of the "obese" category and into "overweight." What a thought! I can't wait to be just "overweight."

I'm looking forward to shopping for clothes in a store that's not Lane Bryant, Catherine's or plus size only and reviewing new health insurance options. Since I am self employed I purchase my health insurance as an individual and do not qualify for a group policy or pricing. In the past, several health insurance companies turned me down due to obesity. Since I live in the state of Minnesota I am able to purchase health insurance through Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association paying significantly more than the average premium for a comparable plan. On top of the physical benefits, my weight loss may help financially.

Sometimes the small things like crossing legs and saving money on health insurance keep a person motivated. Since the summit is still several months away I may as well enjoy a few vistas on the ascent.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Six Months Can Make All the Difference

I've lost about 70 pounds since deciding it was time for a change back on January 6th. That was a little over six months ago. My jean size has dropped from a 28 to 18. Today, I went to my primary care physician for a physical. First off, she was impressed that I'd dropped so much weight in such a relatively short amount of time. Secondly, I am in excellent physical condition for my body size right now. I've been working out 3-5 times per week and monitoring my calorie intake with the iPhone app Calorie Counter PRO by MyNetDiary.

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure a couple of years ago and take Losartan to control it. Today, my doctor took me off the med! My blood pressure was 87/58. I'll be checking it over the next week or so to make sure it doesn't spike, but what an incredible feeling. What a difference six months of healthy eating and exercise can make in one's life!

I am also type 2 diabetic, but my A1C, a test used determine blood glucose control over the past 2-3 months came back 5.5 today. An A1C of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. 5.7 to 6.4 is considered prediabetes. Levels below 5.7 percent are normal. I am now back to normal! Unfortunately, once you are diagnosed with diabetes it sticks. My doctor cut my Metformin intake in half with plans to stop it altogether if my next A1C is normal. Unbelievable! I had no idea when I started this journey that I'd be rewarded so soon for my efforts.

The Calorie Counter PRO app is absolutely the secret to my success. It only cost $3.99, and it's the best money I've ever spent on my health. Here's how it works. I'm 5'6" tall and based on my current weight my basal metabolic rate (BMR) caloric intake should be 1682 calories. BMR is the minimum number of calories required for vital functions necessary for life based on my activity level. In order to simply maintain my current weight I can consume up to 2224 calories. This is the estimated energy requirements or EER. The program uses scientific equations to calculate these numbers based on age, gender, weight, height and activity level.

Once I knew my numbers, I could calculate out how much weight I needed to lose and find a reasonable end date. The program only allows weight loss or gain up to two pounds a week or eight pounds a month. With a doctor's approval it is possible to adjust the numbers and lose more or less, but I've found that my daily caloric goal is challenging enough to meet at the "losing two pounds a week" level.

Now, the process of counting calories and using exercise to offset those calories becomes mathematical, and that's exactly what I like about it. There's no guessing. The program has an extensive food catalog containing caloric and nutritional values in addition to food scores. The most convenient part is being able to use my iPhone's camera to scan a package's bar code finding the product and nutritional information instantly. It's so easy! I must admit I've become methodical about measuring portion sizes. If a serving of brown rices is a half cup. I measure it. If an ounce of Havarti cheese is 110 calories I weigh it so I ensure accurate data.

After six months I am astonished by the extraordinary improvements in my physical appearance, mental acuity and emotional well-being. My only regret is not beginning this journey sooner.

I Wish You Were Skinny

My grandma definitely speaks her mind, and I've been scorned and shamed by her on more than one occasion. However, one striking blow cut me to the quick. Just thinking about it pains me to this very day. Grandma probably doesn't even remember it. An adult can crush a kid's confidence so effortlessly.

Grandma was staying with my sister and I while Mom and Dad were away. A preteen,  I rode the bus home from school and made a box of mac and cheese as an afternoon snack. My grandmother returned from an errand and found me eating in front of the television. She was disgusted and immediately began chastising me. "What are you eating? You're going to ruin your dinner."

I really didn't know what to say. I came home from school hungry and made something to eat. I'd done it before, and no one ever seemed to care. Perhaps, a box of mac and cheese wasn't the healthiest choice, but it was tasty.

Then came the words that hurt, "Why can't you just be skinny like the rest of my grandchildren?"

Dumbstruck I put the fork down, went to the kitchen and left my nearly full bowl of mac on the counter. I was absolutely devastated, embarrassed and stunned. It suddenly dawned on me that until I was "skinny" I would never measure up. Being compared to the perfection of others was an inescapable fate. My body shape was my ultimate failure and no amount of personal success or achievement in other areas could compensate. Clearly, until I was physically thinner I'd never be a winner.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Genetics and Healthy Eating

Today, in general, I eat food that is good for me. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, dairy and eggs are all part of my pescatarian diet. Pescatarian is very similar to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet with the addition of fish and shellfish. I began eating this way full-time in 1994 after my husband and I began dating. He was a vegetarian, and since we ate a lot of meals together I began avoiding meat, too.

My biggest guilty pleasure is cheese. I love it and eat way too much of it. It's so easy to overindulge if I don't weigh a serving and put the darn block away before I cut "just one more piece." It's usually the culprit when my saturated fat intake is high for the day.

After my doctor diagnosed me with full-blown type 2 diabetes I was sent to a class led by a nutritionist. Being diabetic requires careful monitoring of my carbohydrate intake. During the half day class I was instructed about the importance of counting carbs, sticking to portion sizes, exercising and glucose monitoring. For a woman the goal is to eat no more than 3-4 servings per meal. Simply put that's only 45-60 grams of carbs. I was shocked that half of a banana was considered 1 serving or 15 grams of carbohydrates! Bananas are good for you. Who eats half of a banana?

As the nutritionist discussed diet, keeping glucose in check and the importance of not skipping meals I became angry. Why wasn't I taught about all this before now? I'd been punishing my body since childhood slowly killing myself through a cycle of starvation and indulgence. Wouldn't it have been better to be taught about this earlier in life? Maybe I would have made better choices, and I wouldn't be diabetic.

I am embarrassed to admit that my own kids rarely eat breakfast. My 15 year old son goes to school and skips lunch oftentimes or eats only a cereal bar. When he gets home from school he eats whatever he wants with little regard to nutritional value or caloric intake. Not only have I passed on the "fat" gene I've propagated a deadly cycle of unhealthy eating.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Now Departing


A good friend encouraged me to start blogging about my weight loss journey to keep me motivated and provide encouragement to others paddling the same boat. This is my very first blog, and I have no idea how faithful I'll be in my posts.

I went to my doctor on January 6th, 2012 and was horrified as I watched the nurse slide the counterweight on the scale to the 300 hash. "Ouch!" I thought, "Am I really that heavy? I definitely don't see a 300 pound woman when I look in the mirror." Boy, did I feel like I dodged a bullet when the scale tipped and the nurse moved its counterweight back to 250 adding 39 - 289 pounds. Woah! How did I let myself get this fat? I'm only 5'6". Ideally, I'd weigh 150.

I made the appointment to get my prescriptions refilled and have an A1C, a blood test that averages blood glucose levels over 2-3 months. A couple years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Of course, the warning signs were present a few years prior when my doctor called me borderline or prediabetic and began closely monitoring my blood pressure.

I kept telling myself I needed to lose the excess baggage, but weight loss just never became a priority. I continued with my poor eating habits and failed to exercise on a regular basis. I was busy with two kids and running my own business. I didn't have the time to workout or eat breakfast every morning. In fact, some days I only made time for one meal.

Who am I kidding? I've been skipping meals since childhood rarely eating breakfast and missing lunch to hangout with friends in the band room. I was part of the "no lunch club" in high school. One of the guys cut weight for wrestling while I hoarded my lunch money to buy soft serve ice-cream cones at the Buy Low after school. At home dinner served as the main meal of the day and was commonly meat and potatoes. I always had seconds.

I grew up on an acreage in Iowa attending school in a small town nearby. Several towns merged into one school district resulting in my high school class size of 64. I went out for nearly every sport and filled my mornings and evenings with extracurricular activities that included band, jazz band, choir, swing choir, speech, theater and other clubs. I wasn't obese by any means, but I always felt like my weight was an albatross.

Once I got into college, my physical activity level dropped significantly. No longer playing sports on a regular basis, I spent a large majority of my time sitting in class and studying. Of course, there was also the obligatory college drinking and partying, too. My eating habits continued to decline, more skipped breakfasts and lunches followed by high fat and calorie late night meals. With college culinary staples like deep fried french fries and cheese curds, burgers and pizza how could I not gain the freshman 15 plus some? I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. I didn't have any money so my cost effective solution was to buy men's boxers and wear those to class with an oversize tee or sweatshirt.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year at college I returned home for a summer job at a thermopane window factory. I lost 40 pounds that summer by limiting myself to beef broth and Diet Coke for nearly a month. The sweltering heat at the factory and physical demands helped get me back into my jeans. Alas, the return to campus and continued bad habits meant the rebirth of my muffin top.