The Final Fifty

Today I read this article about sugar and metabolic disease. None of it is new information for me, but it’s always good to get a bit of a reminder about things that are bad for you, at least when you’re trying to stay motivated to do what’s good for you.

There are a couple things noteworthy about this (well, one thing that I think should be noted for two specific reasons.) Obesity itself is not what is causing the health problems, it’s the metabolic syndrome, which is very strongly correlated with increased sugar consumption. Obesity is a symptom of metabolic syndrome, but not all obese people have metabolic syndrome, and not all people with metabolic syndrome are obese.

Basically, someone’s size is insufficient information when it comes to estimating their health. There are plenty of people who are “overweight”, but still healthy, active, etc. This is important, because so many people use imagined health reasons as an excuse to fat shame others and make obnoxious comments about their weight, what they eat, or how they live. There is never any excuse to make someone feel like shit about their bodies, period. Even if they have health problems, it’s none of your business, and making them feel bad is not going to help with the problem. No one has ever gotten healthy and lost weight because of shame.

Second, even if you are naturally thin, or just not overweight, it doesn’t mean that you can avoid health problems associated with metabolic disease. You still need to avoid sugars if you want to remain healthy. Being thin is not a pass to avoid eating right and exercising.

This all reminded me of a story my physical anthro professor told us about a time early in her field work when another researcher, left alone at camp, ended up eating the little remaining butter and sugar mixed together. What they had in the field, mostly, was natural, unprocessed food, which is very healthy. But if you’re from the US, even if you eat healthfully, most people still get more fat and sugar than they need, and it can be very hard to give that up, especially suddenly.

This is the second time I’ve set out to give up refined sugars, and I have… mostly. (tangent: …if you don’t count the four and a half boxes of Thin Mints still brooding at my house. I’ve eaten 3 servings of them in the last few weeks, which is hardly egregious, but just like last year I’ve bought them and then found that my main desire is to get them out of my house without eating them. I ended up giving away at least 6 boxes last year. I bought less this time, fortunately, but I think I’ll be putting them out for the St. Paddy’s Day party.)

What I’ve found is that it takes a while for your body and your taste buds to adjust. I’ve gotten headaches from it, felt sluggish and sort of low, and had cravings like you wouldn’t believe. But after a few weeks, those things start to die down significantly, and other foods – more healthy, natural foods – start to taste a lot sweeter than they used to. Sweet potatoes, for example, and other fruits. My lunch of pineapple cottage cheese with craisins and almonds. Hell, I remember the first time I ate that and thought that the tangy flavor of the cottage cheese went well with the sweetness of the cranberries, and now all I taste in it is sweet.

It takes some time and some serious determination. How you find that motivation is different for everyone, but I think it helps to keep your health in mind, your diet goals (whatever they are), and the ways in which you’re already getting healthier. When you start to feel healthier and more successful at eating right, you gain the desire to not sabotage yourself. I’m getting there now, but it’s a process I take on a day to day basis.

Today was ballet day again, and I managed to do 10 minutes more of the dvd than I did the last time. I probably could have finished the last 10 minutes, but at that point I was just going along with it and not really able to do it passably well, so I stopped. This time I can feel it in my abs immediately, almost like a stomach ache. That dvd really makes me work, so I feel like it’s going to do a lot to change my body. I’m wiped out, though, lol.


{February 27, 2013}   Holy crap, y’all, food expires.

I mentioned before that this is not my first weight-loss-apalooza. I’ve done this whole shindig before. But this is the first time I’m actually tracking calories, and eating more healthily, and all that fun stuff. And man am I learning some things here.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that I am a total milk fiend. Cutting out soda or sugary juices was cake walk for me, and still is. Cutting out french fries, sugary stacks, all easy peasy. But cutting back how much milk I drink? Ugh, do I have to? I actually went to a nutritionist once, and, aside from looking at me with a horrified expression when I described my deep aversion to vegetables, her other big thing was that I just had to stop drinking so much milk. I stopped going to see her.

And, obviously, I still managed to lose 60 lbs, so it’s not like I just gave up on getting healthier, but I just did it with lots of milk in my diet.

But now that I’m counting calories, not to mention determined to live healthier and just be done with living in a body that doesn’t feel like I want it to, a glass of milk is 100 calories that I have to negotiate into my day. And it turns out that a lot of days I just don’t end up drinking much of it. I have some in my cereal in the morning, and sometimes I have some at night with dinner.

This, really, is a good thing. I’m getting plenty of dairy between the cereal and yogurt or cottage cheese I eat for lunch, and it’s a good sign that I’ve finally learned to moderate even my biggest dietary addiction. But I was not anticipating this as I picked up milk at the grocery store. I have never in my life before had a gallon of milk last me for nearly 2 weeks. Ever. Because of the unprecedented nature of this phenomena, I also have a second gallon of milk with a sell-by date of Feb 22nd that I just barely opened today. It’s fine so far, doesn’t smell or taste off at all, but I know it’s not going to make it until I can actually finish it.

Hell, me and DBF bought basically the same amount of food that we always do, but now everything is lasting longer. The food I buy for lunches is lasting longer. I’ve been on the same box of raisin bran for over two weeks. I have a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Greek frozen yogurt that’s been in there for more than a week now because, again with actual serving sizes and negotiating calories into the mix, I don’t eat it just because it’s there.

It’s odd, because it makes total, reasonable sense when you say it out loud, but you get so used to things getting used up along a certain time frame that you just don’t really consider things. Turns out dieting is going to save me money, in a pretty significant fashion if this last month is any indication.

Next goal, learn to drink tea with no honey or sugar. I had a few today that are perfect for this, and I’ll be going to the store with my friend on Saturday to get some of my own!

Today I went back to the doctor. Turns out I’ve a torn ligament in the ulnar side of my wrist, so I’ve been given ANOTHER brace, this one much longer and more rigid than the last, which makes it so I can’t twist my wrist at all. I’m pretty frustrated that the 8 weeks I’ve already been wearing a damned brace were worthless, and that I have to start all over with another 8 week stretch, and this one limits different things, which makes it more of a pain in the ass. No weights since I can’t do anything with good form with this thing on. So frustrated. 😦

In good news, my feet are already feeling stronger with the Pilate’s foot exercises, so I’m looking forward to making more progress in that avenue. I managed an hour of belly dance tonight, though this week is going harder than the last few. I just need to keep on pushing against the wall. It might not go away, but at least I can keep pushing.

{February 26, 2013}   Vegetables and I: A Brief History

It took me until the end of last year to finally suck it up and start learning to eat vegetables. You heard that right, last year. After I turned 33 years old.

But wait, I can explain. At least, sort of. Growing up, vegetables came out of a bag in my grandmothers freezer, were dumped unceremoniously into a corning wear baking dish, and nuked in the microwave into soggy, bitter, tasteless oblivion. They were mush, and they did NOT taste good. And her and my mom tried to get me to like them, but to no avail. It’s not my mom’s fault, she worked a lot and didn’t have time to cook a good, homemade dinner every night.

And, of course, no one is responsible for me not trying vegetables other places, or after I became an adult, except me. But I didn’t for years.

This year something changed, and when DBF and friends swore to me on a stack of holy nerd tomes that vegetables could really taste good, I took them up on the challenge and have been trying things out bit by bit. So far my favorites, aside from carrots and corn (which I’ve always been more or less ok with), are green beans, squash, asparagus, and sweet potatoes.

My favorite thing about veggies? You can eat such a large volume of them without overdoing it on the calories. A medium sweet potato, which is pretty damn big, only has 100 calories in it (not to mention they’re loaded with fiber and other good stuff)! I couldn’t finish dinner tonight.

The last few days I’ve been totally worn out, not to mention busy, so I wasn’t able to fit in any dancing, but I got back on the wagon today with an hour of tap. I also found my large elastic bands, so I started doing these strengthening exercises for my feet. I hope they will help lessen the foot pain and cramping I sometimes get, as well as expedite the increase in strength that the dancing is helping. But it was good to get back to dancing. I felt more sluggish, even after only two days (and thats even with dancing at rehearsal.)

Tomorrow I go back to the wrist specialist to find out what the MRI has revealed (if anything.)

{February 24, 2013}   Four week progress report.

I started my diet four weeks ago. In that time I have:

  • Lost 5 lbs. (193 lbs -> 188 lbs)
  • Lost 3″ from my waist (39.5″ -> 36.5″)
  • Lost 1/2″ from my hips (43.5″ -> 43″)
  • Body fat percentage went from 29.9% to 27.3%
  • Went down a size in pants
  • Improved overall in dance, especially in tap dance, which at one point I thought I’d never be able to do again.

I am so, so ridiculously excited, but this is the perfect reason why I use so many different metrics to evaluate my progress. I am what is considered apple shaped, which means that I tend to carry extra weight around the middle, which is a symptom of insulin resistance and an indicator of health problems. Basically, insulin resistance means that your body has to produce MORE insulin in order to deal with the same amount of sugar metabolism, but beyond that, insulin is a hormone that has wide ranging impacts in the body, part of which involves the accumulation of abdominal fat. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle which, if you don’t deal with it, will lead to type two diabetes.

So, basically I’ve been trying to lose weight off my waist, but it’s surprisingly hard to do, and there are a lot of conflicting opinions on the subject. I’m honestly not 100% sure what it is that’s different this time around. Up to now, I mainly lost weight more or less evenly between my weight and my hips, so while I shrunk up a bit, my waist to hip ratio didn’t really go down substantially. It has now, in one month, gone from about the highest it’s been since I started tracking it (last year, so not from day one), to the lowest its been in that same time frame, all in the space of four weeks.

It might be the calorie reduction. In the past when I’ve lost weight, I’ve limited portion sizes and eaten better, but I haven’t actually counted calories before now (I just paid attention and didn’t overeat.) Right now I’m working with a 1000 calorie per day deficit. That’s how much you have to cut back to lose 2 lbs per week. The app I use calculates my exercise calories into the mix so that I can easily adjust depending on how active I’ve been.

It might be the dance focus; it’s a different kind of exercise that works the whole body as a whole instead of just as individual regions, and it combines strength and cardio at the same time. Maybe that’s doing it, but I’m not sure.

All I know, really, is that this is good, and hopefully the trend will continue.

The other thing that’s exciting is my body fat percentage going down so drastically, in ONE MONTH. Tracking this is great, especially if you’re weight training, because your weight can go up even if you’re still actually losing, because muscle weighs more than fat. If you do the math, at the start of this round of work, I had just under 58 lbs of fat on me. I now have just over 51 lbs of fat on me, so even though I lost only 5 lbs, I’ve lost roughly 7 lbs of fat.

I am taking a rest day for today, because I am worn out, I danced some at rehearsal, and my head is killing me, but I get back on the wagon tomorrow. Also, I got cast in the show I auditioned for!

I didn’t get around to finishing up the post from yesterday, which would have involved staying awake after I got home last night, which is hard to do when all you want to do is get home and starfish on the bed.

Thursday was the audition, which went really well.

I determined the dance sneakers I got were NOT going to work for me, so I put them back in the box and will be sending them back. I went and got the other ones from the store because I just don’t feel like going through multiple rounds of waiting and sending back. I got a pair of Bloch Boost, and I love them so much. They’re comfy, and the soles are easy to turn on but not clackety like the other ones. Armed with those, I did the Ballet Boot Camp when I got home from work yesterday.

Y’all, words cannot describe how much I love that DVD. It’s got all the qualities I wanted to find: good, real ballet moves, an intense workout, and the feeling at the end of being totally stretched out and tall. I wasn’t able to do the whole DVD (I stopped after 45 minutes), and there were places where I couldn’t do all the reps of something, but to my mind, this is good because it means I can use this DVD for a while and progress through it. Even once it’s easier, I still think it would make a great workout.

After ballet, I had rehearsal, followed by the weekly cast shindig. It’s at UNO’s (the pizzeria), and I got this great squash and pumpkin soup thing, which was low cal and extremely tasty. I think it might be my new favorite food, so I might have to figure out how to make it at home.

This morning, belly dancing didn’t feel too intense, but somewhere between the ab exercises in the ballet dvd and belly dance, my upper abs (just at the bottom of my rib cage) are KILLING me, lol. I’m also having muscle soreness in my legs as well, which also got worked both in belly dance and ballet.

After belly dance, I went to my callback from the other nights audition. No more dancing, thankfully, but I am super worn out right now from running all over the place. Time to finish recording the stuff for the album me and DBF are working on finishing by the end of the month.

{February 22, 2013}   My motto, and how I stay motivated.

I first heard this quote about a year ago. I’m not sure this picture attributes it to the right person, because this quote has been attributed to so many different people, but at any rate, I have found it to be true in most areas of life, particularly when it comes to getting healthy and losing weight. I know *so many* people who want to lose weight. I’m pretty sure we all know more people who want to lose weight than people who are happy with their bodies. But, as it happens, most people are better at making excuses than they are at losing weight.

It’s no wonder, really. We’re evolutionarily-wired to consume as much as we can, and to expend as little effort as possible. It’s maladaptive now, but imagine how well those tendencies have served the human race during ages when food was hard to come by. And how is it to say “I’ll go to the gym tomorrow”, or “I’ll just have some cheesecake tonight and then work extra hard tomorrow”? I know, because I’ve done those things countless times myself. I wish I knew exactly what changed, because if I could bottle it I’d be a millionaire. Maybe my will is stronger than it used to be, because it’s not easy, I’ve just become more stubborn about it.

Part of it is accepting that there’s no way to get there without hard work. There aren’t any shortcuts, not really. Even with surgery, it’s not an easy process, nor is it one that happens immediately or without any unpleasant changes. For me, keeping the stakes and the goals in mind helps a lot. Writing in this blog helps with that. It forces me to think about the ugly things, like the health risks. Diabetes is worse than diet and exercises. I know, I’ve seen my family members deal with it.

The other thing I’ve had to learn is that, while there’s a specific, end of the road sort of goal in my mind, there are actually benefits at lots of small intervals along the road. Every time I lose a percentage of my body weight, my risk of health problems goes down. Every week I make new progress with dance, and can do things I couldn’t do the week prior. There are inches off the body, sizes going down. Every incremental improvement is worthwhile. And if you pay attention, those improvements are happening *all the time*.

{February 21, 2013}   Goals, in depth.

I thought it might be good to expand on my goals a bit, mostly for myself, but others might be interested.

Overall goals:

  • Improve balance.
  • Increase strength in feet, hopefully to the point where I get less foot cramping.
  • Improve flexibility.
  • Increase stamina.
  • Get better at belly dance, tap dance, and ballet.
  • Get waist/hip ratio to a healthier number. Right now it’s about 0.86, whereas healthy is considered to be under 0.8. It sounds like such a minute change, but with my genetics its proving elusive.
  • Get waist size down, again for health reasons. At least to under 35″ (35″ inches or larger is generally an indicator for risk of health problems.)
  • I don’t really have a specific weight/size in mind, at least not a firm one. I’ve never wanted to be “thin”, per se, and I’m not sure it’s even possible for me using healthy means. I imagine I will bottom out at no smaller than a size 8, which would be fine (even 10 would be exciting for me at this point.) Generally, weight ranges for my height go from 115lbs up to just under 150lbs, so I’m sort of figuring once I get down to around 150, I’ll evaluate how I feel at that time, whether that weight feels good for the activities I want to pursue, my level of activity and such, and then decide from there whether I want to lose more or not.

More specific goals:

  • Be able to do a back bend (hopefully possible, eventually.)
  • Be able to do toe stands in tap and hopefully dance sneakers (maybe possible? I haven’t tried at all yet.)
  • This one is probably a pipe dream, but I’ve always wanted to dance en pointe. I am a long, long way from that, and no one knows it more than me. Reputable studios generally require that you do ballet 3x per week, in addition to having good technique and having enough strength so that you don’t end up hurting yourself. Even if I never get this one, though, working toward it isn’t a bad thing. And believe me, I’ve no intention of risking any additional injury to my body. I am tired of injuries.
  • There’s a particular role I’ll be trying out for in December. I have to work on more than my weight for this one, I have to work on getting certain things across in my audition, but I know that losing the weight will help. I’m not willing to use this to push me to lose weight in an unhealthy way, but it does make for good motivation to do the right things, and to commit to doing them now and until I get there. It’s also something to keep in the front of my brain whenever the things I shouldn’t be eating start looking a little too appealing.

The shoes came today, and they’re too big and I don’t really like the soles (they’re sort of like hard plastic, so they’re loud, like hooves almost), so I’m sending them back. I’m going to brave the dance store I went to a few days ago. I don’t particularly like how high pressure the sales person was with me, but I also don’t want to do the buy and return odyssey over and over again, and the ones in the store really were better quality and not as overpriced as I thought they were (once I found the right model, anyway.) Then at least I’ll have ones that fit right.

I didn’t get to dance today because I totally ran out of time, but I did dance a little at the audition. The audition itself went really well, and I should know sometime tonight if I’m being called back for anything 🙂

Surprisingly, it seems like a few people are reading this, so, Hi! I promise my posts will get more targeted, but I figured I’d give a bit more background over the next few posts, and then focus more on the day to day once I’ve sort of caught up. I found these old pictures.

fattest245This one here to the left is me at my heaviest, probably about 8 years ago. Note the lack of shoes. I have a lot of trouble with my feet, and 8 years ago was about the worst of it. It wasn’t all from my weight, but the weight most definitely contributed to it, and as the weight has come off and I’ve been more active, my feet have improved over time.

This brings me to the new DVD. It’s called Ballet Boot Camp, and it’s basically the exact thing I’ve been looking for for a long time now. I did ballet as a kid, from about age 4 to age 12, and I’ve wanted to get back into it for a long time, but classes are expensive, I’ve got no car, and I have rehearsals 2-4 nights a week for the musical I’m in currently (Oliver!), so classes aren’t ideal for me at the moment. What I’ve wanted is something that is both serious ballet and a serious workout. Most of the ballet DVDs I’ve previewed are too watered down on both the workout, and on the ballet, so I was really excited to find this one. I am so excited to try it, but from what I’ve seen so far, ballet shoes are not  great idea for this one… there is a lot of jumping going on, so much so that even the dancers in the DVD are doing it in dance sneakers. So I sucked it up and ordered a pair. They should get here tomorrow, and hopefully I’ve ordered the right size. If not, they’ll go back and be exchanged for another pair, but I’m really hoping the first time is the charm this time. Dance sneakers, if you’ve never seen them, are sneakers with a split sole so that you can still point your toes properly, but they’ve got the support of a sneaker, with soles that are specially made to facilitate turning and even toe stands. I would really like to be able to do a toe stand one day. It might sound silly, but that would represent a huge accomplishment for me, both in fitness and in foot strength and overall health.

The picture to the right is more or less current. It’s from last summer,

bellydance but it’s the most representative picture that I currently have. I don’t typically wear my belly dance costume out, but it was a Renaissance Faire, so you can get away with things there that you can’t anywhere else, lol. I can’t begin to explain how much belly dance has done for my mental body image, but I can sincerely say that if you had asked me a few years ago if I’d have left the house like this, I would have laughed in your face. The thing is, though, I got a million compliments on my costume, and even got followed a bit by a guy with a drum who kept playing until he got me to dance. That’s the thing about body policing,
though. You hear the comments and see the looks so many times, that eventually you internalize the shame and the negativity, and ultimately no one has to say anything because you end up policing yourself.

Now that I know other people are even aware of this page, I want to make one thing really clear. I am not losing weight because I am ashamed of my body. I am not ashamed of my body at all. I was for a long time, and you know what? Being ashamed of my body did not make me thin, and it did not make me healthy. All it made me was miserable. I love my body because the more I do with it, the more I realize I am capable of doing with it. I start a particular kind of dance or exercise regimen, and in the beginning it’s really hard, and there are bits that I can’t do, but then I keep doing it and eventually it becomes easier and easier.

The reason I am doing this, working on losing weight and getting more fit, is that I want to be healthy, and I want to get to a point where my body can do more things, more easily. There are a lot of health problems running in my family – diabetes, heart disease, cancer – and I don’t want to get any of them. Losing weight will significantly reduce my risk for them all. And it will make dancing, and flexibility, and having energy all the time a lot easier.

Today was pretty great. I ate mostly the same stuff I did yesterday, but I managed a full hour of tap, at a moderate intensity, so I was able to have a serving of thin mints, OMNOMNOMNOM. I’m also excited, because this was beginner lesson seven, here, which I did about half of a few days ago. I wasn’t able to finish it, for a few reasons: my formerly broken, storm-predicting toe started hurting, going up on the balls of my feet was hurting *both* feet, and my balance was not as good as I would have liked when doing the moves slowly.

Today, I got through the full hour, and managed to stay balanced on the balls of my feet for the majority of the lesson. I think the rest day helped give my feet a break, but I also know that the practice is having an effect and I am improving, which is super exciting!

Can’t wait to try my ballet DVD tomorrow! I have another audition, so I probably won’t do the whole thing, but I’m going to at least try it.

{February 20, 2013}   GS Cookie Constable

The girl scout cookies have arrived. I buy some every year because, well, I love the girl scouts, and if you play it right, you can make them last a long time. Last year I bought maybe a dozen boxes? I ended up giving half of them away when invited to various events, and made the other half last at least six months, so I am totally up to this challenge. I know what the serving sizes are, and I don’t eat more than one serving a day. And I’m doing well at sticking to my calorie limit. Plus, knowing you have thin mints in the freezer is powerful motivation to not go out for lunch when you have a perfectly reasonable lunch in the fridge at work, so I know how to manipulate myself with those cookies, lol. DBF has enlisted me to control his supply this year, so I’ve got his boxes hidden strategically around the house. Now it’s just a matter of surviving the cookie supply without any binges.

{February 19, 2013}   On the rules, the goals, and today.

In my last post, I talked about establishing reasonable rules that you can actually stick to for a lifetime rather than just until you hit your goal weight. Here’s what my rules looked like last time around (based on memory, I might have forgot a few of them):

  1. Portion Sizes: Eat one portion size (or one per item, if a full meal) at a time. Wait 30 minutes. If still hungry, supplement in a reasonable fashion (i.e., maybe not another whole plate, maybe another serving of one thing.)
  2. Limit refined carbs. So, little to no pasta, bread, cereal, etc. Within reason. Sometimes they’re hard to avoid.
  3. Eat mostly fruit, nuts, lean meats. (I was not a veggie eater at all then. I’m working on that part now.)
  4. Switch from 2% milk to 1% milk.
  5. No french fries or sodas, or not more than once in any given week. These were easy things for me to give up.
  6. Exercise 3+ days a week. This was also easy for me, as I enjoy working out once I get a momentum going.

Today, my rules are similar:

  1. Portion sizes, same rule.
  2. Limit refined carbs, same rule, except that I usually have raisin bran for breakfast. It is whole grain, which is less of a problem, and it helps me get more fiber into my diet.
  3. Same thing, though I’ve added in greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and I’m learning to love some veggies, especially squash, sweet potatoes, and green beans.
  4. Again, the same. Easy change for me to make, as I hardly notice the difference.
  5. Same thing, with this additional caveat: I’m learning not to drink my calories. I never was a huge soda drinker anyway, so that part is easy, but I do love coffee with cream and sugar, tea with honey, and great big glasses of milk. Now, I mostly drink water, with the occasional 8oz glass of milk if I can fit it into my caloric intake for the day.
  6. I’m trying to dance at least 6 days a week. I can’t do weights right now due to my wrist injury, so dance is a way I can still be active without making that worse. And the more I commit to, the harder it is to leave things until another day, so it keeps me on track better.
  7. Calorie target: 1401 calories on sedentary days, adjusting using the MyNetDiary app on days when I dance or am otherwise active.

So far this is working well. I am losing around 1-2 lbs. per week so far, which is a good rate. Also, I am still losing even though there have been a few days where I’ve eaten more calories than I should (or drank them, lol.) I have felt mildly hungry, but nothing uncomfortable, and I know this is to be expected while my stomach adjusts to smaller portions of food. No headaches or anything to speak of.

My goal is to lost a total of 50 lbs. by the time my next birthday rolls around (when I’ll be 34.) 2 lbs. per week would get me there in mid-July, roughly, so I figure November is more reasonable since there will be off weeks and such to think about. I’m adding a countdown widget as soon as I post this.

Today was pretty average, though I did not dance because it was late by the time I got home and I haven’t skipped a day for about 9 days now. I did have my new favorite lunch, which is 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 1/4 cup each craisins and nuts. I’ve sometimes had the same thing with greek yogurt, but I like it better with the cottage cheese.

et cetera