Refreshing the eye, the heart, and the imagination.

Get Fit

2013 marks the first year I have ever tried to lose weight. After putting on over 20 pounds in the past year or so and losing my cardio capacity, it's time to start working for my health. So here is where I am going to let you see how I'm doing with that. My goal is to lose 10 pounds (and keep them off) by May 1st. I am working out regularly and counting calories (never thought I'd be doing that!).

I joined My Fitness Pal, where I keep an online journal of what I eat (all of it!) and how often I exercise. You can check out what I'm up to on my profile or simply pop by to see how much weight I've lost below.

Help me stay accountable, friends! If you'd also like to join me on My Fitness Pal, sign up (it's easy!) and let me know you joined so I can cheer you on. (Bonus: if you join, you get to be nosy and see what I eat and how much I exercise every day.) Hope to see you there!

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

2 weeks in: The scale hasn't budged downward in 2 weeks of a 1200 calorie a day diet and at least 3 days a week of exercise. It turns out, after I calculated my BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) and TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), that the caloric intake I had been given to follow fell below the amount of calories it takes to keep me alive when I'm doing nothing. For two weeks I've been starving myself (although I've not felt hungry), causing my body to hold onto fat in an effort to maintain. Talk about discouraging! After realizing this, I upped my daily goal for caloric intake to my BMR, 1400 (a leap of faith!), and am hoping for the best. I may have to increase that even more with TDEE calculated in, but we shall see in two more weeks. 
I have felt better about my overall tone since exercising more regularly, but would still love to see the belly pudge disappear. To that end, I'm focusing a bit more on circuit training and weight lifting, hoping to see more muscle definition. I definitely hurt more after both of those as opposed to cardio! If you're looking for a great circuit training plan to follow, I highly recommend Lauren Conrad's Calorie Blast and 20 x 3. They look deceptively simple. Just try them. You'll see! 

4 weeks in: The scale finally budged downward! I was so excited when this happened, because let me tell you, I wasn't so sure it would. Like I said 2 weeks ago, I realized that 1200 calories a day was hindering my weight loss since my body was eating muscle and holding onto fat in starvation mode (If you use My Fitness Pal, be sure to double check your BMR and TDEE in a couple other sites to make sure you're getting what you need.). Taking a huge leap of faith in a counter-intuitive move, I upped my daily caloric intake to 1400, and while I often find it hard to get there each day in a healthy manner, my body is much happier for it. And I lost weight! 
I have been working out about three times a week, and my magic formula seems to be 10-15 minutes of cardio on the treadmill followed by 15-45 minutes of strength training and circuit training. I mix the strength and circuit training by using weights during the circuit training. It's been fun to feel stronger and to see muscles start to develop again. I plan to keep up my formula and to add in more abdominal and core work as I go. So far it's been a good mix of arms, core, and legs, and amazingly I've not gotten bored, repeated a routine, or run out of ideas. As a sample of what I do, here's the routine I used last night (using free weights), if you're curious: 

Run Intervals 15 minutes 
Wall Sit, as long as you can
Weighted (20 lb) ab twist, slow, 50 reps
Weighted (10 lb) ab twist, fast, 100 reps
Bicep Curls, Outer, as many as you can
Weighted Squats (20 lbs), 50 reps
Front Arm Raises, (10 lbs each arm, alternate arms), as many as you can
Weighted Calf Raises (20 lbs), 50 reps 
Dead Lifts (20 lbs), 25 reps
Pilates Roll Up (or half roll up and hold, for a challenge), as many as you can 
Repeat from Wall Sit

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens over the next two weeks! 

6 weeks in: I'll be honest; I've not visited the gym much this past week, at least. I've had a few too many irons in the fire (all good things!) this week, and my body misses the work outs. I'll be back working things out with a fury from now on! 
There have been a few days of not eating within my caloric limits, too. Busy days = no cooking, which = find whatever wherever. And then there was Valentine's Day. But it's back to regularly scheduled programming, so I'll be pulling out cookbooks and looking up Pinterest pins on recipes to try out. 
I may not have done much in the way of working out, but I did draw up a couple of my workouts again for you to try. The first is a weighted kickboxing routine, and wow! It kicks back! I felt muscles in my back and chest I hadn't felt in years!  I used five pound weights for all of the kickboxing part of this routine, one in each hand, and did twenty reps for each side (ie. 10 right front kicks, 10 left front kicks, or alternate right/left jabs, 10 each side). Believe me, you'll feel it for days after. As you grow stronger, up the circuit intensity by repeating up to three times, then by increasing the individual reps from 20 to 30.

And the time has come to focus more on the abdominals. I'm feeling ok about my body otherwise, but this extra pudge drives me nuts. I know you know what I mean. The weight coming off isn't of too terribly much concern to me (I'm still within healthy weight, just want to tone up and maybe lose those remaining 8 pounds), but this belly pooch bothers me. Swimsuit season isn't terribly far off, so my goal at this point is to strengthen my core and rip those abs a bit before then. Here's one routine I've used for that purpose, adding in legs to break it up. Note that the items "Side Leg Raises," "One-Legged Plank," "Side Plank," and "One-Legged Bridge" encompass both sides (ie. right side plank, immediately followed by left side plank; bridge with only left foot on the floor, immediately followed by bridge with only right foot on the floor, etc.), and the items "Sit-Ups," "Pilates Roll-Ups," "Plank," and "Reverse Crunches" require that you do these moves as long as you can. If you are not familiar with the ballet term "Tendu" here is a good intro to the exercise. It looks easy, but don't let that fool you. 20 reps for each part of the exercise (front, side, and back, both legs)!


Enjoy your workouts! And don't forget to stretch really well after both of these. Your body will thank you. Next time, I'll add a simple stretching routine to add to your arsenal.

1 month to go: I was doing really well with going to the gym at least 3-4 times a week for a while, there. Then I got sick. What is it about getting older? Somehow a cold knocks me flat anymore. As in, get off work, go to bed I'm so rundown flat. But that is gone, and it's been back to normal again. The scale still isn't moving. Well, it is every day, but always within the same 5 pounds. And you know what? I'm comfortable with that. It doesn't help me reach my goal, but if my body is happy, and if I'm feeling good and keeping the muscles burning, I'm good. At least I look and feel much better than I did in January! And that pudgy middle? It's pretty much back to normal. I've had to play around with food combinations and work on stress, but it's looking more like how I want it to stay.
Last time I checked in I promised a stretching routine. For a while there I wasn't sure how I was going to approach that, but weeks of sitting at a desk plugging away at work for hours, then not exercising during illness gave me a clear answer. Raise your hand if you have lower back pain. Most of you? All of you? Right. It's the curse of desk jobs, and you probably know first hand how crippling it can be. So, to help you out, here's a 20 minute yoga routine to ease that lower back pain. I did this the other day after a particularly painful morning, and I'm telling you, there was instant relief!

Please excuse my stick figures. If you can't figure out what they are, here's a verbal run-down:

1. Stand, take 5 deep breaths
2. Inhale, arms up
3. Exhale, fold, full inhale
4. Exhale, step back into plank, inhale into cobra
5. Exhale, down dog, take 10 deep breaths, then inhale
6. Exhale, child's pose, take 10 deep breaths, ending on an inhale
7. Exhale, down dog
8. Inhale, right leg forward, both arms to the left of the right leg, lizard pose, take 10 deep breaths
9. Repeat from 7, left leg forward this time
10. Exhale, down dog
11. Inhale, right leg forward, bending the knee so leg is at a 90 degree angle, pigeon pose, take 10 deep breaths
12. Repeat from 10, left leg forward this time
13. Exhale, down dog, then inhale
14. Exhale, child's pose, 10 deep breaths
15. Come to a seat, feet together, butterfly pose (you can use your elbows to push down lightly on your knees), 10 deep breaths
16. Lower the back down to your mat, legs bent, knees hip width apart (not splayed outward - gotta think about that one!), bridge pose, 10 deep breaths
17. Lower the back to the mat, hook right leg over the left and let them drift to the left, head to the right, arms straight out to the sides, 10 deep breaths
18. Repeat 17, opposite side
19. Keeping knees bent, return the feet to the floor, then cross the right ankle over the left leg, pulling the left thigh toward the chest, thread the needle pose, 10 deep breaths
20. Repeat 19, opposite side
21. Return to a seated position, legs in front of you, feet flexed. Bend the right knee over the extended left leg and twist to the right, 10 deep breaths
22. Repeat 21, opposite side
23. Sit up and come into lotus pose (or cross the legs), back straight, hands resting on the legs, 10 deep breaths
...And you're done!

Feel better? I hope so!

 Final Update: 

To answer the burning question - No, I did not lose 10 pounds. I lost a grand total of 3 pounds in 4 months. The first 2 came off about a month in. The 3rd came off just a couple of weeks ago. And I think that one shed because I stopped working out and lost muscle mass. Why did I stop working out? There's a lot that goes into that answer: stress, being crazy busy (more on all that later), sickness (please tell me I'm not the only one who's been sick more times in the last year than in the past 5!), laziness, curiosity about what would happen if I did lose muscle mass/weight, seeing friends focus only on food intake control and dropping weight like whoa.

And now on to the more interesting part: what I've learned.

1. I do not need to focus on losing weight. I am at a healthy weight for my height. I may never look like I used to, but a lot of people have told me I was way too skinny before (when your doctor rejoices that you've put on weight, that might be a sign). It took several years of going from waiting tables and chasing kids to sitting at a desk at work and at home for my body to change. I'm not planning on going back to waiting tables and chasing kids any time soon, so there's no way my body will go back to what it used to be. Ladies, just be aware that if you are on the slender side, your body will one day change, and it will be a shock. You'll have to learn to dress differently, to emphasize different parts of your body. But it's ok. It may take some time to dawn on you, it may take time to embrace, it may take re-vamping your entire - and I mean entire - wardrobe, but it's ok. You are still lovely.

2. Portion sizes of food are a lot smaller than we imagine them to be. Look up charts for this. It's true. Living in the U.S. gives us a warped view of portions. Those French restaurants that serve food in portions Americans love to gripe about? They have it about right.

3. Although I've always eaten relatively healthy, tracking my food intake made me realize how sneaky calories can be. They like to hide out in favorite foods. Mexican out every week? Nope. Can't do it. I love my Mexican restaurants, but geez. That's been limited to about once a month. Mac and Cheese every week? Ok, here's a confession. I love Mac and Cheese so much that my husband bought me a cookbook solely dedicated to the subject. For a while there, I did make a recipe a week. But you know what? Cheese. It's so not good for you, no matter how good it is. Pasta? The same. And of course I got to take leftovers for lunch every day of the week. Oh, and let's not mention alcohol. Not helpful. So now? Lighter dinners, with a few splurges on comfort food once or twice a month. Clean snacks. A drink once or twice a week and no more. Balanced breakfasts. Protein shakes on the weekends when I don't feel like eating, or on the weekends I decide to take the dog for three mile runs.

4. There are some foods certain bodies just do not like. Mine doesn't like sweets much (yay!), but it also can't eat a lot of rice or certain veggies without feeling bloated. I've had to learn to stick to "safe" foods, which pretty much means I eat nearly the same things all the time (see Clean Snacks). Figure out your body's safe foods and stick to them.

5. Exercise can be a Medusa of a beast. One minute you feel strong after working out, the next you berate yourself for not working harder. One day you see and feel results, the next day nothing. One day you feel confident in your appearance, the next day you're tearing yourself up over not looking ripped enough. It can mess with your mind if you let it. Don't let it. You're in control.

6. Exercise is wonderful. It's a great way to relieve stress, let me tell ya! You can run your frustration away, lift and squat your way into feeling invincible, box your anger out...It's great. You can feel totally bad-ass at work when your quads ache and your triceps are defined, even if no one knows. It's the perfect way to gain swagger on those days you don't have much left. The elation that comes from being able to run one mile further than before, or lifting ten more pounds than last month is like no other. Exercise is about overcoming mental obstacles more than it is about overcoming physical ones.

7. I love exercise. I miss it when I'm not going to the gym or pounding the pavement. But I need to come up with a sustainable workout plan (3 days a week, varied routines, etc.) that allows me to do everything I want to do in my life. I tend to go all in, no holds barred, and then realize that I've slacked off on taking care of the house, or spending time with my husband, or name it, I slack on it. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to train for another half marathon in the fall. And this is the biggest obstacle: how to achieve a training schedule that lets me balance the rest of my life.

8. The above point would not matter perhaps so much if I did not also need a lot of sleep. I'm one of those people who need a good 8-9 hours of sleep a night. I think it's mostly because I don't sleep well. I'm a super light sleeper most of the time, and the other time I'm a dreamer who gets so active in the dreams it's like I've been awake the whole time. Last year my doctor had to help me it got so bad. I was nearly falling asleep at my desk during the day I felt so exhausted. Since then, I've not scrimped at all on sleep. It's too costly for me. Getting up at 5 am for a run isn't in the cards for me right now. And that's ok. It doesn't matter how well you eat or how much you exercise if you do not get the sleep your body needs. Now, that's not an excuse to lie in bed as long as possible. That's laziness. It means you need to be aware of your sleep patterns and how much sleep you need to function throughout your day.

9. All this counting calorie stuff and working out mess needs to have some balance. If your partner rolls his or her eyes when you decline a rare night of celebration, even if you have been really "good" the rest of the week, it might be time to re-think motives. Life is partly about enjoying what you've been given, and being grateful for it all. Sometimes that means celebration. If you can't throw caution to the wind once in a blue moon, you've gone obsessive over...something - appearance, health, checking off your to-do list, keeping your perfect record. Not cool. Stop it. Relax and enjoy life.

10. And lastly, I've learned that every day is a starting line. Every day, no matter what the day before looked like: good, bad, or ugly, you get to start again. Every day you get to choose what you eat and drink, what you wear, what your attitude will be, how and if you will work out, and what your goals will be. If you do great on your goals one day, awesome! Build on it the next. If you mess up, no worries. The next day you get to start all over again. And so it goes. Every day is a starting line. Where will you finish? It's your decision.