Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Look Who's Tracking 2

If I were a movie title, that would be it. At least for today.

If you've been following along then you know a few things. First, my life has been unusually stressful for, oh, just the past 1.5 years. Second, my weight has been creeping up over the past year, now to the low 150's. My official WW "goal weight" - for whatever that's worth, and I do think it's worth something - is 147 pounds. Finally, I have been, lately anyway, hoping/praying/fantasizing that I could pull this eating thing together in some natural/organic/free-range sort of way that would NOT involve tracking.

And now is the time to acknowledge that, for today, this week, this month...I need more than hope and nature...I need Weight Watchers. And thank goodness the company exists because at least I have somewhere to go when I need it.

Last week I looked up meetings and found one that could fit my schedule on a weekly basis. It's a lunchtime meeting and the bonus is, it's led by Sandy (and Stan is the receptionist). Sandy is a 14 year maintainer (who also happens to run the monthly Lifetimers meeting). Stan is a fellow runner. The two of them have great, supportive, we-know-what-it's-like attitudes. I walked in with zero shame, zero anything, to say I'm here, I'm over my goal weight by 6.4 pounds, 153.4 is my current weight. By the way, that weight puts me back into the overweight category according to the BMI. Can I say I was wearing jeans? At least they still fit.

All jokes aside, this is not an imaginary weight gain. I can feel it in my body, the way my clothes fit and in how I move. Mostly I feel it in my gut. Not my actual gut, but my spiritual one. Something is not right. I have ideas about the who/what/why of what's not right, but I don't need to figure that out to work on making changes.

It felt good to sit in that meeting. I bought the monthly pass and started tracking immediately. It felt good to track. It feels good to be doing something.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why We Give In

I am so excited! I've been talking with the folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest about all sorts of interesting stuff. I am fascinated by all things at the intersection of science and food. More specifically, eating. CSPI has been doing some research on temptation and what factors lead us to "give in" when our goals would suggest we should do otherwise. So without further delay, I bring you a guest post by Jessica Almy of the Senior Nutrition Policy Council at the CSPI.

Why We Give In
Guest Post by Jessica Almy, Center for Science in the Public Interest

I love that Michelle puts into words what so many people struggle with. Whether we’re trying to lose weight or eat more fruits and vegetables, we all find ourselves sometimes acting in ways that are at odds with our long-term goals.

Why is it so hard? In a perfect world, we would set goals for ourselves, make choices consistent with those goals, and live happily ever after, right? There would be no late-night binges and no feelings of regret or moments of weakness. We’d only buy the foods on our grocery lists, and when we eat out, we’d keep portions modest and ignore the basket of chips.

In this fictional food world, there would be no candy displays at the supermarket checkout and no tantalizing food ads on television. Food companies wouldn’t bother to spend billions of dollars to market particular food products to us. Instead, they would scramble to reformulate their foods to compete with Big Broccoli.

That’s not real life though. In real life, our decisions suffer when we’re tired, stressed out, or have had a tough day. We respond to cues to eat that we may not even be conscious of. And food companies bombard us with marketing, ranging from TV and internet ads to displays at the supermarket.

Research shows that urges to eat are more frequent than urges to sleep, drink, and have sex combined. When those urges are at odds with what we want for ourselves - as they often are - they become a source of stress that can make it harder to make good choices going forward.  

Just as people living in poverty have a harder time resisting temptation after they’ve made financial choices, people who are dieting have stronger physiological responses to the sight and smell of food than people who are not dieting. These stronger responses actually make it harder to resist. And it’s not just dieters who are more susceptible to temptation either. Adolescents, perfectionists, people under the influence of alcohol, and people who are sleep deprived (like most new parents) are too.

No one is immune though. Self-control is like a muscle that fatigues with use. It’s one thing to pass up pastries in a bakery window on the way to work, but it can feel entirely different on the way home, after sitting through a meeting that required us to hold our tongues and resist the lure of a candy dish on a colleague’s desk all day.

Simply put, when we’re tired or stressed, it’s harder to make good decisions.

Plus, most of us cannot trust our sensations of hunger to guide us to eat optimally. The sensation of hunger is not just the physiological need for calories—it can result from environmental cues, the passage of time, or the anticipation of an eating occasion.

In one study, a group of women were exposed to the smell of baking pizza and/or asked to write about pizza for 10 minutes, while another group did not receive any pizza cues. Afterward, researchers gave all the women pizza to eat and asked them to fill out a survey. The women exposed to the pizza cues consumed significantly more pizza than the other women.

The environmental factors we contend with on a daily basis influence our food purchases and consumption, often in ways that are hidden or beyond conscious cognition, making healthy eating a struggle.

Consider the grocery store. Retailers use displays and sales promotions to prompt us to buy and eat particular foods. Supermarkets don’t put candy only in the candy aisle. They entice shoppers to buy candy they pass in the seasonal aisle, on end caps, and in line at checkout.

We recently looked at the foods, beverages, and products promoted at checkout in 30 chain stores, and we found that nearly every store pushed candy or soda at checkout. Many of these stores are not even in the business of selling food.

We can’t even buy electronics without facing candy and soda at the register. How can we be expected to resist temptation every moment of every day?

Being mindful of the factors that make it harder to make good decisions is a positive first step toward healthy eating. But it’s not enough. It’s not possible to eliminate stress and fatigue from our lives altogether.  

We also need to work together to make it easier to live in ways that are consistent with our long-term goals. That’s basically what we do at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. We try to make healthy eating easier.  To join this effort, click here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alive and Kicking

I haven't had a gap in blogging like this since I was pregnant. And no, I am not pregnant. But there are equally big changes happening in my life and I am nearing the point of writing about them. For now, this is just a brief update to say I am here, I am still fighting the good fight, some wins, some losses, and a lot of ties. My weight is up some, right around 150, give or take a pound. My body fat is up too, 31.5% or so. I can feel, and see, the changes in my body. A tad larger, not as defined, but I can also see that I am still in damn good shape. I've decided to start going to WW meetings every week again. Not sure if I'll start tracking too but probably maybe. Taking things one step at a time.

Ok...an update on a few things that have happened since my last post...

My little angels attended a cowboy themed school event. So cute!

 
Ms Myra turned 4 (she turned four back in September; we were a little late on the party organizing). She had quite the Hello Kitty bash. I have better pictures on my actual camera but for now, something from my phone.


There's been other stuff too but I'll have to write about that later. Last thing...Back in July I registered for this half-marathon, the US SF half. It's coming up on Sunday. The longest run I've done in ages was 6 miles. Kind of on the fence about whether I should run it or not...but...knowing me...I'll try. And if I try, I'll probably finish. Might be my slowest time ever, but who cares about time at a time like this. Not me.

That's all from me. Hope you all are also still doing what you can. If you're on a roll, keep rolling. If you're struggling, take a deep breath and do what you can. And if you've fallen off the wagon, keep looking for it. I've found my lost wagon many a time.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Not Sick

I'm not sick. These days that feels like big news. But I did wake up with a slight sore throat this morning. If I only get a week or so of not being sick and get sick again - oh boy, I can't even think about that. The bottom line is, my immune system seems to be dead. And I know why, stress and poor self care. The latter being mostly that I'm not getting enough sleep.

I've been doing ok great in the exercise department. I went to the gym three times last week, including a really nice outdoor run that had me leaping up a tall hill like Superwoman, and might go for a run later today. The gym has been hard but good. My muscles are not what they were but I have time to work on that.

Eating has been hit-or-miss. The late night snacking behavior has improved. Now it's on to the birthday party, happy hour, social life eating. That needs some work.

I got on the scale yesterday morning and I was 150.something pounds. In the past that might have sent me into a state of panic and then denial. Not now. Now I know, I am confident, I can and will deal with this. And soon. In fact, I am dealing with it. And the good news is, I feel much better than I did a couple weeks ago. My mood, motivation, is better. Just as long as I don't get sick again. Might have to go on leave for a while if that happens. 

Anyway, this is just a bit of a check in post. Still not sure what's happening with the SF Half Marathon but it's not looking very likely. I haven't run since that 6-miler I did a couple weeks back. I mean, I've run - short gym runs, treadmill runs - in the 2 to 3 mile range, just no long runs.

Ok, that's it from me for right now. Hope all of you that are fighting the good fight keep going. Remember, the first thing is to not give up. Ever.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Getting Paid by the Hour

I don't want to boast, but the truth is, I'm awesome. And not always humble.

Seriously, I can't quite believe how I pulled myself out of the hole.

As I mentioned in my post on Tuesday, I went to the gym that day.

On Wednesday I did it again. I rode the upright bike for 20 minutes and then did an ease-back-in weight training routine, a bit of everything, including a couple sets of pushups even. Thursday was more of the same. I ran one mile on the treadmill and did a short full-body weight routine.

And then came Friday. I had the day off and was toying with the idea of a long run. What if...what if? Midday came around and I had that get going! feeling, so I ran with it (pun intended) and changed into my running clothes.

I knew I was going out for a run. How far? don't know. How fast? don't know. My body would be my guide. What I did know was this would be an indicator as to whether or not I would be able to run the US Half Marathon, San Francisco coming up in 6 short weeks. If I want to get up to 11 miles the week before the half I had to do 6 miles. But I can't force it, not this time.

So I set on my way, running so easy and slow that, in terms of my exertion, I almost felt like I was walking. "I could run like this all day," I thought. The running continued to be almost effortless so I started to have ideas about shooting for 3 miles before I turned around. But I wasn't wearing my Garmin so I had to run for time. I figured 13-minute miles are about as slow as I could possibly be running. At that pace, I would need to run for roughly 80 minutes to get to 6 miles.

So I kept shuffling along with a plan to turn around after 40 minutes. I should add, I was running in a beautiful area, next to water, with perfect conditions. That helped. As I ran I started having all these amazing, positive thoughts. It went something like this...

Later in the day, after my run.
My body is incredible, I'm running!, this is the way to run, slow, easy, effortless. How lucky I am to be able to do this! Look at that sky, beautiful. And the temperature is just perfect, with plenty of shade. And the breeze that's coming along every once in a while, straight from heaven. I'm so lucky, so grateful that I can do this. See? I still got it, I'm not done-for. These legs, they're carrying me along, slow, easy, smooth.

On my run out I'd look down at my shadow and feel like I had a running companion. Yep, there I am, running. I lost that buddy for the return trip. And on the return I started to feel twinges of discomfort, indications that despite running easy, this was still a challenge. So I slowed down, backed off my already easy pace.

And I figured, why not? I'm running for time. It doesn't much matter how far I go, I've decided to run for 80 minutes and how far I cover in that time-frame isn't all that important. It's kind of like getting paid by the hour to paint a wall. Why rush? The longer it takes, the more money I make. I chuckled at that concept and kept myself entertained for a good 10 minutes thinking about how running for time is like getting paid by the hour. What's the hurry? Slow down, take it easy, enjoy!

And so I did. When I hit the 80 minute mark I laughed, probably in part to being high on endorphins. But no matter, I felt great, and I'm pretty sure I ran 6 miles. The half-marathon is still possible. I came home and mapped my route - 6.6406 miles in 79:30 (I stopped just before 80 minutes because I'd reached my starting point). That's a pace of roughly 12-minute miles. Snap!

My eating has been much improved. I did do a lot of indulging over the past few days but not in a bad way. I was mindful, present, and not just munching on snacks I didn't enjoy at 11pm at night. And as the weekend wraps up, I'm thinking about getting back to my "regular," less indulgent eating. 

Ok, so I still got it. And, I exercised four times this week. Though I was missing one weight-training session. So yesterday I went to the gym, I ran a very leisurely 3 miles (roughly 11:30 pace!) and then did another round of full body weights. Admittedly I was worn out but I was happy worn out, not exhausted worn out. There's a difference.

And so there you have it. I'm all about the comeback. I was down, but not out. Lost, but not forgotten. And now I'm up, found, and working my way to back. It will take a few weeks in the weight lifting department, and who knows how long in the running department, to get back to where I was but you know what? I don't care this time. What matters is that I'm here. And right here is a damn fine place to be!