I Did It!…or, I’m Starting To See Changes

I did it. I achieved what I believed to be the impossible. It started small…and turned into a huge accomplishment. My last blog post, I wrote about how I was finally able to stay on the stair climber (AKA The Beast) for a total of thirty minutes, climbing for fifteen minutes then stopping for a moment and continuing on for another fifteen minutes. Well, this past weekend (as I type this, I’m grinning a grin so big it hurts) I was able to climb for thirty minutes straight!  And then something even bigger happened. On Monday, I climbed my way onto The Beast and kept going, past the thirty minute mark all the way to forty-five minutes! I’ll be totally honest, I don’t kick up the speed. I keep my hands on the heart rate monitor handles and watch my heart rate, trying to keep it within the fat burning range, so slow and steady is my style on this machine. But slow and steady is what got me through forty-five minutes of heavy breathing and sweat and wishing I was at home on the couch. When I was done, I was disgustingly sweaty. Seriously sweaty. Like my whole shirt was a sweat stain. I had sweat dripping from my hair, down my face and into my eyes. But damnit, I did it! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could stay on that machine and keep moving for that period of time. Never.  Because it’s hard.  And because it hurts. But I did it. And now I know I’m stronger than I thought I was and have way more determination than I thought I had (because I was ready to get off that machine about five minutes into it!). And do you know what I did yesterday? I forced myself to attempt it again, and I climbed for another forty minutes.

I don't know if the stair climber will ever be considered my "warm up", but I'll stick with it!

I don’t know if the stair climber will ever be considered my “warm up”, but I’ll stick with it!

I’m now in week six of my transformation. I call it a transformation, not a diet because I am changing: the way that I eat has changed and my relationship with food is slowly changing. Sure, I still want ice cream and cake and pizza and wine and all of the crap that I was allowing myself on a regular basis. I won’t lie and say that I don’t occasionally indulge and allow myself those things, but the frequency and the amount of any food I eat has changed drastically. I want a better me more than I want the food, which is why I live on a steady diet of grilled chicken and field greens and veggies. It isn’t fun. And it isn’t easy. But I’m doing it. Another big change is my activity level; I went from literally doing nothing, to spending forty-five minutes a day, five days a week at the gym. That’s a huge change. I still can’t say that I “love” working out, but I tell myself that it’s a necessity, so every day after work, that’s where I am, pushing forward and imagining myself a whole lot littler as I huff and puff away on the stair climber. After four weeks of not seeing any progress on the scale, I’ve had very minor weight loss over the last two weeks. I’ve decided to take each one pound loss as a victory rather than thinking You’ve only lost a fucking pound and you’ve been killing yourself at the gym and eating rabbit food!? Ok, ok, I sometimes think that…but then I tell myself this will take time and I suck it up and move on. The major things I’m noticing six weeks into this journey is the way I look naked and the way my clothes fit. My body is changing! Clothes are starting to become too big! I’ll take those changes with a smile and keep on keepin’ on! I’ve decided to set little goals for myself and crush those little goals, one at a time until I get to my major goal. I’m realizing that in order for me to get to my big goal, I’m going to have to stick to this new way of eating and living for an extended period of time – that there is no overnight fix. And I know myself: I burn out and lose interest in things and move onto the next thing that is shiny and new and peaks my interest. I’ve just decided that this time around, that isn’t going to happen. So, everyday, I’m going to remind myself that I have to keep going until I meet the big goal and transform myself into the person who I want to be.

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Week Three…or, The Moment of Realization

I’m nearing the end of week three of the Do It or Die Plan and as time wears on, it’s become more apparent to me that I need to look at myself rather closely and discover what on this earth brings me happiness other than food.  This has been a sad realization, but a necessary in order for me to continue the weight loss journey. After a multitude of melt downs (that my Fitness Extraordinaire Sister has put up with) because I couldn’t have _________(I’ll let you fill in the blank), I feel that the only way I’ll be able to continue successfully is to re-examine what exactly brings me joy.

Food has always been the center of gatherings with friends and family in my life, and something in which I’ve always taken great pleasure.  Therefore, in these past 3 weeks when I’ve had to deny myself simple pleasures like a glass of wine or pizza on Friday nights, I’ve gotten mad. Mad because I feel I’m depriving myself of the one thing that has always been a source of joy.  Is that sad? Or, am I simply a normal person who takes a great interest in savoring food? Logic tells me that anyone depriving themselves of something that they enjoy is bound to get cranky. Logic also tells me that when I get cranky in this instance, I become resentful and want to throw in the towel. So, the question begs to be asked: is all of this work for naught? Will I, after a week of 45 minute cardio sessions, six days a week become so disillusioned by it all that I say fuck it and quit because I feel like I’m killing myself and depriving myself at the same time? If I did decide that this just isn’t for me, will I then feel a ridiculous amount of guilt because I quit? Would I then try yet another weight loss plan with limited success?

I’ve thought a good bit about what other things in life I could focus on that bring me joy when I’m pissed that I can’t have popcorn or a glass of wine. Time with family, time with my friends, and music are the obvious three.  Hiking and gardening once brought me joy, but I haven’t been out once this year for a hike and I have planted absolutely nothing this season.  I know what you’re thinking: that can be remedied. You’re right. In fact, I have a hike planned in the very near future with my kindred spirit, Lady Di with whom I always have a good time. And I think I’ll head to the store to buy some plants this weekend.

But, what else is there? I think the reason I have such a hard time listing the things that make me happy is because I have never spent a real good chunk of time alone with myself. I’ve always tried to focus on other people and have placed a great deal of significance on other’s happiness. One of my best friends tells me that the reason I don’t like being single is because it forces me to be alone with me and the fact of the matter is that I don’t really like myself all that much.  Perhaps she’s right. I mean, we could always learn to love ourselves more, right? Or, perhaps the thought of being alone with myself and being forced to find out more about myself is a daunting task.  I have friends who are completely at ease with being alone, and actually relish the time and these are the people who, I believe, know themselves the best. They have distinct likes and dislikes and are very comfortable within their skin.

I think this is a time of transformation for me. Not just physical, but emotional and mental as well. I’m pushing myself far harder than I ever have in the past physically and mentally. Every day is a battle with my self from the time I get out of bed until the time I’m back in bed at night: do I force myself to drink the gallon of water a day? Do I have egg whites or do I eat what I want for breakfast? Do I make myself go to the gym and do 45 minutes of cardio or, do I do what I really want to do and go home and have a glass of wine? For the past three weeks, I’ve been changing the way I live my life.  This morning, I watched a vlog that a friend and former yoga teacher posted and a piece of a sentence that she said echoed back to me: become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think that I’m in this uncomfortable place and I’ve not yet become comfortable with it. Living your life in a completely different way is uncomfortable. But maybe, if I start to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, if just for a little while, it’ll make this transformation period a little bit easier.   This is my new mantra. And I’ll continue to repeat this to myself as I’m on the treadmill walking on an incline and my legs just want to quit. And something tells me that I won’t quit; not just because of impending guilt if I do, or possibly disappointing my sister who has done a good thing by helping me, but because I want this transformation. And being uncomfortable for a little while is a small price to pay for that.

The Do It Or Die Plan…or I Really Miss Salt

Monday morning I awoke with the realization that I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of making excuses, of continuing to watch the scale move upward, to continue doing things the way that I have been. I’ve had enough of settling for the me that I have been.  I’m lucky enough to have a fitness extraordinaire sister to whom I could reach out for help, and reach I did. What any trainer or fitness mogul worth their salt will tell is this: The gym is only a small percentage of weight loss. What happens in the kitchen is key. So, knowing my sister (she who shall go by the moniker FES for Fitness Extraordinaire Sister), I got in touch with her Monday morning as I was spooning yogurt and strawberries into my face and asked her for a meal plan. I knew I wasn’t going to like it. I knew it was probably going to make me hangry and yearn for taste: for salt, for chocolate, for alcohol, for sandwiches, for chips, for everything that I routinely put into my body. But, I reminded myself yet again: ENOUGH. Enough of doing things your way, Lex.

My sister put me on a meal plan for the week. It’s Wednesday and I can tell you that I miss salt with everything in my soul. Salt and coffee. As an avid coffee drinker, I generally start my day with a big ol’ mug o’ mud, with lots of milk or creamer and a tablespoon or two of sugar. No longer. Nope. These days, I begin my day with a protein smoothie. In my most recent trip to Houston, my sister lovingly prepared me a protein shake to gulp down one morning. My response to the taste of this was, simply put, “Feh!” I actually don’t mind the smoothies though. I use chocolate protein powder (or as I like to think of it, powdered chicken), a banana, a very scant amount of non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt and ice. Tuesday morning was the first morning I made this concoction and I must admit, it took me a while to choke it down. I’m not used to drinking my breakfast, so I think the combination of that and the flavor took some time to adapt to. But this morning? That smoothie was the best tasting damn thing I put in my body since yesterday morning!

Snacks and the other two meals of the day aren’t my favorites, but they’ll suffice for this week. My mantra is ‘I can do anything for a week’. There is one recipe my FES gave me that is absolutely aaahmazing, though. Quinoa & turkey stuffed peppers: simple, good for you, and since I made them over the weekend, super easy to heat for a good, filling lunch. Now, dinner is another story. I love vegetables. Or rather, I love vegetables with salt. Dinner consists of veggies sautéed in coconut oil – no salt, damnit – and 4 ounces of a protein. Also, no salt. As anyone who has ever used Mrs. Dash will tell you, this is no substituted for salt. But, it’ll do. For now.

My FES also told me that running in my current state is not a good idea. Short bursts of jogging are alright, but no running for any kind of distance. This advice kind of made me laugh, because I can’t run for any kind of distance. But, I digress. I’ve been instructed to do some kind of cardio for 30 minutes a day. If it’s walking outside with short little bursts of jogging interspersed or walking on the treadmill with intervals on an incline, or using the elliptical at the gym – do it: 30 minutes and leave. Even I can follow those instructions; I mean, 30 minutes? I can make room for 30 minutes of moving five days a week.

I’m midway through the week and so far I’m down almost three pounds from Monday! I’ll take weight loss over salt any day. Doing things another person’s way is always a challenge. It makes you change your way of thinking and reassess the current situation and biggest of all, it means admitting to yourself that your way isn’t necessarily the best way. That one is tough for me, and always has been. But, seeing results this quickly has motivated me to continue on with a positive outlook and hopes for change and results a lot faster than I could garner if I were still doing things my way. I think I’ll stick with my FES’s plan, or what I call it: the Do It or Die Plan. My sister is one tough cookie and I know if I slack off on this plan, I’ll have to answer to her, and to myself. So, I’ll continue on doing what I’m supposed to do and see what the end of the week brings. Here is to new beginnings, change, and the Do It or Die Plan.

Going Blonde and Hating It …or When You Look Good, You Feel Good

After years of thinking about making the huge leap from my natural very dark brown hair to blonde, finally did it last weekend. I made the leap across the chasm and ended up none too thrilled. I did it on a whim. I made an appointment to get a haircut and walked out of the salon four hours later… Yes. Four hours. Three bleachings and four hours later, I left with a buttery yellow shade of hair. I remember looking in the mirror after it was done and thought, “huh. So this is it?” And then I started talking myself into liking the hair experiment.

This wasn’t exactly my first foray into jumping the chasm of scary shades between super dark brown and blonde. I tried going blonde during my early twenties, but it wasn’t a completely successful attempt. I ended up walking around with strawberry blonde hair that I walked around with for ages. No one in my family liked the color and looking back, I can attest that that shade did not look spectacular on my olive toned complexion. But, at the time I liked it. I think I was in such a haze of pot smoke at the time that I was so relaxed all the time I simply didn’t care.

This time around though? I cared. As I said, I upon first glance into the mirror when it was finally finished looked in the mirror and felt like I was obligated to like it. After all, I was spending over one hundred dollars on this and I’d just invested four hours. So, I decided that I liked it. And, I think I kind of did. Maybe. Until I got home and happened to be in the room when two of my sisters were face timing. Is that how you make Face Time a verb? My sister flashed the phone at me and my third sister says to me, “At first glance, you look like Slim Shady.” And then? She laughed. After that, all I could see was Eminem when I looked into the mirror. That’s how yellow my hair was. Butter yellow.

And then Monday rolled around and I had to go to work. My drastic change drew several gasps from my coworkers. And the second Eminem reference from my boss. That’s when I decided. It was official. I hated this yellow mop on top of my head. After several phone calls, I finally had an appointment with a hair dresser who I was confident could rectify this hair disaster. Two hours after I walked into the salon, I walked out with hair that is my natural color. I was elated. I felt like me again.

mid-fix

mid-fix

It amazes me how good I feel about myself now that I’m back to my brunette self. My eyes look brighter, my skin looks better and my hair most definitely looks better. I don’t think men really get how our silly beautification practices make us feel better about ourselves. When you look good, you feel good. Am I right ladies?

My New Torture..or I Think I’ll Keep Doing This

Spring has sprung here in northern Virginia and I’ve chosen a new means of torture…I mean exercise …to try now that the weather is just puuuurfect.  I’ve decided to start running. Ok, maybe not “running”; It goes more like this: start off jogging at the end of the driveway up the small hill and slow down to a walk when I can no longer take a breath and I’m gasping and drawing in breaths through my mouth because I’ve lost all control over the most involuntary bodily function. And then I walk until I can easily breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. And then I run again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. You get the idea.

Generally, I’m fairly repulsed by the idea of running. It makes you sweat, it makes you feel like your heart is going to explode and limits your breathing ability.  In fact, when urged to run because of its health benefits by a co-worker, my response was, “I only run if I’m being chased by something with a dangerous weapon.” However, I caught up with someone who I used to date last week (a very bad decision) and noticed a big difference in his physique.  He’d started running. I figured if someone like him (trying-to-quit smoker, heavy drinker, non-exerciser) could do it, so could I. I also have felt like a slug as of late. I don’t remember the last time I went to the gym (and I hate the fact that I’m paying for a gym membership that I don’t use) because I hate being on a machine in a humid (yes, for some reason it’s somewhat humid there) gym.  Being on a treadmill or a stair climber or an elliptical machine makes me miserable. My reasoning is that I have to do enough things in life that I dislike…why should I force myself to go to a gym if it’s optional and it makes me miserable?

Anyway, once I decided I’d give this a try, I decided to follow through. After all, if I hated it, I didn’t have to do it again. The funny thing is, the first day that I did this (last Wednesday), I was shocked at how very little I could jog before I needed to come to a screeching halt; before my heart felt like it was going to leap up from my chest cavity into my throat.  The second day (embarrassingly enough, this was just yesterday. I didn’t feel like moving at all on Thursday and Friday night I needed a girls night with pizza and a movie) seemed a lot easier. I don’t know how, but somehow it felt easier to move my body at a faster pace than walking. I also chose to extend the area of my walk/jog to about 2 miles; amazingly enough, I was able to run longer and further distances before I felt like I was going to collapse.  By the time I made it home, I was sweaty and short of breath, but I’d done it! Today (day 3) I did it again…and I even bested my distance again!

I look nothing like this when I run

I look nothing like this when I run

There’s something very strange about this new “hobby” (yes, we’ll call it a hobby). The pounding of my feet on concrete is strangely hypnotic. I get a sense of pride every time I look back at a section of road that I’ve just run down (this is of course once the urge to vomit has passed and I can breathe again). And, the best of all outcomes is that I feel good after I’ve completed my walk/jog. I have a huge sense of accomplishment and pride every time I finish my loop around the neighborhood (or two neighborhoods, as the case has been the last two days). Those are reasons enough for me to continue this new hobby and pushing myself to new levels.

I can because I think I can

 

Weight Watchers is a Bitch…Or, I Really, Really Miss Cooking (and Butter)

During my little hiatus from writing, I decided that enough was enough:  I decided I was tired of my pants fitting tight, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and that the path to happiness was named Weight Watchers. I had repeatedly seen the new WW commercials on t.v. and though “I should do that again”.  I’ve done Weight Watchers before, many years ago (when I was in my early twenties) and had success; I lost about 50 pounds over the course of several months. And then, when I stopped following the plan because I got fed up, I gained it all back (and then some).    weight loss

Anyway,  I started this new weight loss venture toward the middle of February and I started out strong. I believed I could do it! If only I follow the plan to a perfect T, eat only the minimum number of points per diem that the plan allotted and come up with an arsenal of WW friendly meals and snacks, I could do this!

hangry

hangry

Guess what? That enthusiasm wore of quickly.  In fact, I became “hangry” more often than not.  Hangry is a term that I’ve adopted from a co-worker of mine; it’s a mix between hungry and angry. And it fits my mental state about 70% of the time.

For any of you that have been readers of my writing endeavor, you know that I love cooking. I not only do I love cooking, I savor cooking. It’s an experience that becomes richer the more you do it, the more spices you add, the more items you have to chop, the more you add to the pot, bowl or pan.  I. Love. Cooking. And thanks to go ol’ Weight Watchers, I haven’t really cooked much (with the exception of simple chicken, tomato, garlic one-pot dinners) over the past six weeks or so. And that just makes me angry. I feel like something that I love has been taken away from me. I love to cook; it brings me happiness to make food that other people can enjoy.  You want roast chicken, you say? Leave it to me: give me some butter and herbs and an oven and I’ll make you a roast chicken so delectable you’ll want to lick your plate.  You want some mashed potatoes? No worries, I’ll whip up the fluffiest, buttery dream that you’ll ever taste.  Beef stew is your thang? I got it; I’ll add the herbs, wine and browned beef that’ll make your mouth water as it simmers.  As I’m writing this, I’m getting hangry.  I’m getting angry because  during this venture into weight loss, I’ve lived primarily on Healthy Choice meals, Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, a never ending supply of bananas, apples and strawberries and no butter.

Hello, my name is Alexis and I like butter. And bread. Oh my holy hell, how I love bread. And guess what? With the new Points Plus system of Weight Watchers, all foods are designated points based on their fat content, carbohydrate count, protein and fiber values. Breads are essentially what I would deem a “waste of points”.  I mean, I can eat a Hawaiin sweet roll for 3 WW points, or I can eat an entire Healthy Choice meal for about 6 WW points.  Which should I go for?

As you can see, this entire process of weighing my options and missing out on things that I love (Italian food, Mexican food, the occasional cheeseburger) can drive one to want to drink. And that brings me to another point: booze has such high WW point values that it makes you think twice before pouring a half a glass of wine that you will sip on and down 4 WW points. Grrr. Hate. It. Hateitsomuch!

The upside to my angst is that thus far, the plan is working. I’ve lost approximately 12 pounds in about 6 weeks. All while depriving myself of my joy of cooking (and butter). I know, I know that there are “Weight Watcher friendly” recipes out there. Believe me, I’ve tried them.  I made the most tasteless Weight Watchers friendly Tex-Mex Chicken Salad that you’ll ever taste (…or not taste) a couple of weeks ago that contained (and I say this with disdain) fat free mayo and fat free sour cream. I tasted the finished product, looked at my mom and said, “It’s missing something but I can’t tell what.” Do you know what my wise mother said in reply? She said, “Fat.” Dang right! That’s exactly what it was missing! No fat, no flavor!

Now, I definitely don’t subscribe to the theory that every dish has to be laden with butter or oil or mayo or sour cream to have flavor. Absolutely not.  But to use fat free versions of something that is meant to have fat just seems wrong to me.

I had a little melt down just last week when I calculated my points and decided I had enough to have dinner out with my best friend (and occasional hiking partner) Christina.  I’d chosen the restaurant, I’d looked up point values, I’d decided what I was going to have. And then it happened: at the last minute,  Christina’s daughter (my neice) decided that she didn’t want to go where I had decided to go. She wanted to go to Chilis. That was when it happened. I was so irritated that I actually had to expend more energy on figuring out what I “could eat” to fit into my little (very) calculated plan that I probably had smoke and steam coming out of both of my ears and my nose.  Christina, being the good friend that she is told me to calm the hell down, it wasn’t that big a deal, and that I could find something.  After I took a big, deep, hangry breath I looked at her and the steam and smoke stopped billowing from my head. And then she asked a very important question that I am still pondering to this day: Are you going to keep doing this for the next five years of your life?

My answer flew out of my mouth faster than I thought it could. It was a resounding NO. Or rather, I believe that I said “God, no.” And then I questioned myself: How was I going to keep off the weight that I’ve dropped or would drop as long as I continue doing this plan, once I stopped being “on the plan”? Would this be another failed attempt? One where I would feel all at the same time noble and hangry for a short period of time until I threw in the towel with a very loud exclamation of “fuck this!” I believe that is what happened the last time, or something very close to that happened last time.

 

 

I know that people who have never experienced issues with weight or self image may have a hard time having any sympathy for myplight or will understand the woes described above when they read this.  I truly believe that anyone who has had issues with weight or self image who read this may want to tell me to suck it up and keep on keepin’ on.  And both ends of the spectrum are ok.

Because you see, I know exactly what I “should” be doing. I “should” try to eat healthy and allow myself the goodie here or there that satisfies me so that I won’t binge on a bag of cookies or an entire pizza (yep, I’m guilty. I’ve done both. And I hope I gain some points from you for the simple fact that it’s humiliating to put that fact out there for all to read.) But I have an issue with moderation.

Moderation (I know) is the key to happiness.  And is the key to a long-lasting healthy relationship with food. Deprivation only leads to that hangry feeling and makes you want to bight anyone who comes into your path.  Some of you who do Weight Watchers will probably think, “But with WW, you can have anything you want! In moderation.” And to that logic I call bullshit.  Sure, you can have it, but when you only get 30 points a day are you really going to blow 3 of those points on a roll? I think not. Are you going to cash in 4 of those points to have half a cup of carefully measured wine? Not me.  This leads me to believe that I need to try something different.  I need to be able to continue to practice what I love: cooking and still incorporate health eating habits. I believe that I can do this; I also believe that it’ll be hard to do this, but I think it’ll be worth the fight to eat homemade non-processed foods that I enjoy in moderation. And to cook with butter again.

Now all I have to do is not buy into the Weight Watchers, NutriSystem and MediFast commercials when they come on t.v.