Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Anything is Possible

50lbs…Wow!  After reaching my highest weight of 206.0 around 7 years ago, today the scale read 156.0 pounds.  Although I have come a long way, I still carry the struggle and sadness of these years with me.  Starting at a size 34 pants, I slowly reached a size 36 and then a size 38.  When I was close to a size 40, I had never before felt so badly about myself; I finally decided to do something about it.  I made exercising a daily part of my life, and I completely stopped eating out at restaurants.  I kept this up for a while, and dropped to nearly 160.0 pounds.  However, as soon as I deviated slightly from this rigid plan, the weight slowly crept back to 175 pounds.  

I knew that I had been on the right track, but that I needed to find a healthier, more balanced way to keep the weight off.  82 days ago my life changed when I started Running Without a Watch.  I have since dropped 16 pounds, learned how to eat out at restaurants without going overboard, eliminated the urge to include dessert with every meal, and made exercise an enjoyable and consistent part of my life. 

From this experience, I have discovered that anything is possible!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Late Night Cravings

I’d like to share with you another one of these ridiculous weight loss articles that steers people in the wrong direction.  According to this article, eating after 8:00pm will make you fat, based on a study indicating that people who eat after 8:00pm consume 754 calories vs. 376 calories.  Well duh!!!  What do most people reach for when they eat at this late hour?  Chips, pretzels, ice cream, pizza, fast food, and cookie usually top the list.    

Let’s back up for a minute though, when not so long ago I also got sucked in by these kinds of articles, and I tried this diet of “no food after 8:00pm.”  I remember going to a restaurant and eating as much as I could before the clock struck 8:00.  I even rushed to finish the last bite of dessert at 7:59.  Surprise, surprise, I still gained weight!

So, think about it this way.  Is there a difference in the calories of a pizza if you eat it at 7:00pm instead of 8:00pm?  What about the calories of an apple or a carrot stick?  Trust me, the reason you are overweight or out of shape is not because you eat after 8:00pm.  Rather it is because of all of the choices you make from the moment you wake up in the morning until bedtime.   So if it is after 8:00 and you find that you are hungry, reach for a piece of fruit or a crunchy vegetable.  Remember, the simple secret to weight loss is calories in vs. calories out; it does not matter when you eat, but what you eat.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

(Disclaimer - I am a not a doctor and do not claim to have any medical training.  Always consult with a licensed medical professional.)

Even when we take very good care of ourselves, our bodies are still vulnerable to the outside elements.  Whether we are graceful or clumsy, we can’t fully protect ourselves against injuries, which can occur during a routine workout, while simply bending down to pick something up, or by accidentally tripping on the curb. 

The dilemma that follows such a situation is whether you should continue to exercise, or take some time to rest.  To answer this question, I offer you a saying which I have learned to live by… “When it doubt, sit it out.”

Over the years I have suffered some minor knee injuries.  Instead of taking a few days off from running to rest my joints and let the inflammation heal, I always kept pushing and running through the pain.  I remember feeling so worried that if I stopped running for a few days, I would lose momentum and gain weight.    Unfortunately, one particular time, the knee pain got so bad that I had to seek medical treatment.  When all was said and done, it took a couple of months before the pain had subsided and I was able to run again.    If only I had just given my knees some much needed rest…ahhh, woulda, coulda, shoulda. 
Since that injury, and especially since Running Without a Watch, I have learned so much about how to take care of myself while running and while taking time off.  Recently, after bending down to bathe the kids, I felt a sharp pain in my knee.  I thought back to all of the mistakes I have made in the past and decided to handle things differently; I didn’t run until I was pain free for two straight days.  All in all, I didn’t run for six straight days.  During these days off, instead of worrying about it, I thoroughly enjoyed the extra free time in the evening.  

And wouldn’t you know, my weight never even changed! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tis the season for Stuffin

Thanksgiving is the time for the infamous “3 F’s”…football, family, and food.  It seems like the start of the holiday eating fest begins this week and continues all the way through January 2nd.  Between the work parties, holiday parties, visiting friends and family, shopping, going out to eat for lunch, the special menus, and the smell of the brisk cold air, present us with many opportunities to eat poorly during the next six weeks.
Here are three of my tips to help you get through this challenging time while maintaining your current weight, and maybe even continuing to lose weight. 

1.        Scrumptious treats are everywhere, so BE SELECTIVE- It’s ok to enjoy yourself, but the key is to limit yourself to foods that you deem truly worthy.  For me, instead of eating every cake and cookie in sight, I hold out for an opportunity to really savor some cheesecake or an ice cream sundae.

2.       If you overindulge, don’t punish yourself – If you eat too much at the holiday meal, don’t follow it up with “detox” or overdoing a workout.  Instead, eat sensible, balanced meals, and exercise as usual.  

3.       Manipulate the Scale – After going to parties or big meals with family, ignore the scale for a few days.   Remember, eating too much food once or twice is not going to affect your overall weight.  However, eating too much food every day of the holiday season will surely pack on the pounds.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and I wish you all a joyful holiday season.   

Monday, November 21, 2011

Consistency is Key

I have a co-worker who we’ll call Jenna.  Jenna is typical of someone who wants to lose weight, but goes about it completely wrong.  She always comes into work complaining that she ate badly the day before.  Just today, she started off the morning by whining about eating badly at a party last night, and in order to restore some balance, she was going to spend the day “doing detox.”  As I have come to learn, detoxing usually means skipping breakfast, eating a salad for lunch, treating bread as a forbidden food (which she does a lot), and eating something healthy for dinner, or skipping it altogether.   While she sometimes participates in an exercise class, she is very inconsistent with her workouts.  For instance, although she hasn’t run consistently in months, she recently ran five miles uphill on the treadmill.  She explained that she was sick of running just one or two miles at a time, and wanted to really push herself.  While that sounds great on paper, she may be in danger of burning out or injuring herself because she is putting too much strain on her body.    

Does any of this sound familiar?

For me, it is not only familiar, but very much a part of my recent past.  I have struggled for many years with an unhealthy cycle of eating poorly one night and then over compensating the next day by eating too little.  Unfortunately, this always left me feeling so hungry, that I binged on junk, thus continuing this harmful cycle.  Eating poorly went hand in hand with having difficulty setting and maintaining realistic and obtainable goals for exercise.  Just like Jenna, I have pushed myself too hard during a workout, instead of focusing on consistency and proper care for my body. 

You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20.  I see Jenna’s predicament so clearly, because I was once stuck there as well.  Based on all that I have learned, here are some simple and practical guidelines to help people like Jenna reach a healthier and more balanced daily routine. 

1.      Make the time to prepare and eat a filling breakfast before leaving for work in order to counteract the need to stop at the bakery or other fast food joint at the start of your shift.
2.      Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time so that you can munch on crispy and hearty fruits and vegetables during the day.
3.      Don’t overcompensate.  Remember that we all slip up, and it’s important to move on quickly. If you ate more than you wanted to one day, eat normally the next day with sensible portions and balanced nutrition.
4.      Bring your lunch to work.  If you have a microwave, bring chicken, pasta and some vegetables.  If not, then make your favorite sandwich or a colorful salad.
5.      Relax about your exercising and take care of your body.  It is better to do a shorter work out on a consistent basis, than to carelessly overexert yourself. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Emotional Eating

Since gaining insight into my behaviors, I have learned that one of the main reasons for my weight gain over the years is due to emotional eating.  I eat when I am feeling down, anxious, bored, and worried.  I have also noticed that I eat more and crave non-healthy food when it is cold and rainy outside.  Relying on food to help cope with life’s challenges is dangerous.  Although I feel momentary relief as I taste the warm bread or the rich chocolate, after I’m done, I’m left feeling just as I did before, only with added disgust for having overindulged, and sometimes a stomach ache to boot. 

By increasing my awareness of how my feelings impact my behaviors, I am able to make better choices in those critical moments.  Today, I am feeling especially anxious about a very important meeting taking place tomorrow.  To make matters worse, it is also cold and rainy outside, the scale was up ½ a pound from yesterday, I have not run in three days due to a pain in my knee (non-running related), and I did not have time to prepare a nice hot lunch.  With all of these triggers to lead me to emotional eating, I decided I’d better take control and make some smart decisions, before things got out of hand.   

Early in the morning, my co-worker offered to pick up some bagels, but I declined because at the time they didn’t have any cinnamon raison bagels, just plain.  I wasn’t going to eat just anything because it was put in front of me.  However, I got a nice surprise when he returned with a fresh cinnamon raison bagel; I ate it and it was delicious. 

I ate my lunch early, and had a long afternoon ahead of me.  Since I wasn’t going to be home until late, I decided to head out of the office for a nice hot meal.  There is a place down the street which offers a main dish, unlimited sides, soup and a salad, bread and soda for about $10.  Instead of eating all of the food that comes with deal, I ate a sensible portion of fried chicken breast with brown rice and mashed potatoes.  I stayed away from the soup, salad, bread and soda.
Afterward, I went to the bakery hoping that they would have this delicious chocolate filled pastry.  Instead, they had chocolate covered pretzel shaped cookies for about $0.25 each.  Again, I ate a reasonable portion of three cookies instead of seven or eight, which I have eaten in the past.
Today marks 70 amazing days of Running Without a Watch, during which I have learned that there are much better ways of coping than indulging in unhealthy food.  So today, as I knew that my desire to eat was driven by emotion rather than hunger, I chose to make smarter decisions and I actually enjoyed my food!

Have you ever coped with food?  What foods are you drawn to at difficult times?