Slow Like a Turtle – 23/23 Weeks – Food Journal Check In

As with most weight loss journeys, you will reach a tough point or a plateau or both.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  You start out and the weight seems to come off easily at first.  Then you hit that point where it feels like you are not moving forward at all. This is the most crucial point.  My best advice – DON’T QUIT!  Keep on course, make some adjustments.  Double check your portion sizes, make sure you’re being fully honest about what you are recording in your food journal, take your measurements (which can show progress even if your weight is stagnant or has gone up a few pounds) and maybe make a few simple changes to spark further weight loss (or size reduction because weight isn’t all the best metric).

Look at what you are eating, maybe you need to eat more fruits and veggies, did you remember to count the sugar in your coffee, etc.  Are you exercising or have you slacked off?  There is also the paradox that I fall into which can be very frustrating if you just use weight as a metric  When the weather gets nice, I’m exercising more in the form of cycling and hiking which means I put on muscle weight which is why measurements are so important. Today’s results:

23 weeks – 23.0 lbs lost / 23 inches lost (8 measurements/ 9 inches from 3 core measurements.

Average 1.0 lb week or 1 inch a week (8 sites) or 0.39 inches per week (3 core measurements)

At 13 weeks – lost 17.2 lbs (1.32 lbs per week)/ 10.75 inches (8 sites) – 0.83″ per week/ 6.25 inches (3 core sites) – 0.48 inches per week

So if you look at the averages of loss in weight and measurements from 13 to 23 weeks, there are some differences but the surprising thing is though my weight loss slowed from 1.32 lbs per week to 1.0 lb per week, my average measurement reduction was higher in all 8 sites (1 inch per week at 23 weeks) as compared to 0.83″ per week at 13 weeks though my weight loss had slowed.  Okay, I’m a big numbers nerd.  But my point is, KEEP GOING!  Also, don’t let the number on the scale deter you.  Especially if you have started exercising more, picked a new or resumed a seasonal activity like cycling.  When I start cycling, my thigh measurements increase for awhile as does my weight.  This is simply a gain in muscle size and muscle weight for awhile.  

The problem with just using weight as your metric is you don’t get a full picture.  And don’t even get me started on BMI the most useless measurement there is especially if you are athletic at all.  Elite athletes who can have single digit body fat percentages will come up as “Obese” on the BMI chart.  BMI is a faulty metric. A pound of muscle is much more dense than a pound of fat.  See the photo below I found on the internet:


That’s why my measurements can shrink much faster than my weight when I start up my cycling season.  I naturally tend to put on muscle quickly.  I have measurements in my spreadsheet that go clear back to 2004 and in my current spreadsheet from November 2016 until now, I took my largest and smallest measurements recorded and put them on this particular sheet for reference.  Yes, I am seriously a nerd!  So here is an eye opener:

At my largest measurements I only weighed 7.4 pounds more than I do today (in Jan 2007) but the difference in my current measurements to those measurements is -25.75 inches (8 sites).  So what is different between 1/2007 and today?  I’m incredibly athletic and fit at 47 compared to how I was at 37.  I had just started riding bikes back then and could barely ride 4.5 miles on a bike path without feeling like I was going to die.  Now it takes me 50 miles on a bike path to duplicate that feeling of I am going to die (or never sit down again!).  I could barely hike my favorite trails which I coast along now as if it’s nothing putting in 4-5 miles as if it’s nothing when I could barely hike 1-2 miles (with multiple rest stops).

My diet at 37 was crap and more crap.  My diet now is moderate crap as treats.  Okay, I’m not giving up ice cream (did reduce the portion size significantly without any deprivation) but I did substitute my occasional craving for greasy potato chips with veggie chips where I can have 30 of them for 120 calories rather than a few regular chips for the same calories.  I loved whipped cream and at 20 calories a tablespoon, I can add it to my 3/4 cup serving of pudding in a generous dollop and enjoy it.  Or on ice cream.  Always on ice cream, that’s a law by the way in my house.  When the can of Reddi-whip is empty, I go into panic mode so I always keep a sparse can.  No, I am not joking.  I love it that much which gives my family plenty of fodder for jokes.

I have incorporated in yoga 3-4 times a week as well.  My life in general is much more healthy than at 37.  So on your journey to being more fit and healthy, look at the big picture.  Celebrate all the little improvements because they add up to big changes and results.  Plus just use weight as one piece of the puzzle not the only one.  Part of a healthier lifestyle is exercise and depending on what you do, it could make you weigh more because you’ve added muscle weight which helps boost your BMR (basal metabolic rate) or resting metabolism.  Plus exercise (in moderation – don’t go crazy) is great for your memory, building new capillaries (depending on exercise – cycling is a great one), reducing stress, getting you outside (really important – use sunscreen!) and improving your lunch and heart functions.  Our bodies were created to move and so many of us have jobs where we sit all day.  Or come home and watch tv or sit on our devices cruising social media.

I will be honest, this last 10 weeks since my previous post have been a struggle.  I had to adjust what I was eating, look at my food journal with an eagle eye to see where I was cheating myself (not recording a big enough portion etc.) and to remind myself that I was back into cycling up to 50 miles a week and my body composition was changing because I was getting back into riding (adding more muscle weight).  It sucks to see the scale go up 5-6 pounds when yu worked so hard to lose that 5-6 pounds.  It is easy to feel discouraged but step back and look at what is going on.  For me it was not being as honest as I could with my food journal entries.  I also cut out making big bowls of steel-cut oatmeal with a little cream, nuts and berries.  While healthy foods (okay not the cream but it was just a little), the calories I consumed didn’t abate my mid morning hunger so I was eating more calories.  I reverted back to my packets of oatmeal, precisely 160 calories per packet and saw the weight slowly start going back to what it was 13 weeks ago.

Though I dreaded writing this post because it felt like I was failing myself, once I really sat down with today’s measurements, weight and crunched the numbers, I still saw improvement.  The joy is in the journey not the final destiny.  So they say.  But it is true,  I was surprised to see my body measurements had decreased and then when I compared them to my former unhealthier lifestyle (I still can make improvements), I felt buoyed and the dread dissipated.  This still gave me a sense of an accomplishment that I kept plugging away even during the rough part.  That I analyzed my choices to get me back on track and while it can still be a PITA, I am still using the food journal app almost six months later.

Though it’s hard, trust me I know this because my husband’s weight loss has really overshadowed mine (60+ lbs), keep going.  It becomes more habit after awhile as you adopt this new lifestyle.  I don’t really deprive myself of anything.  Last night my daughter and I went to one of our favorite diners that has the best patty melt and hand cut fair fries (that I drown in malt vinegar), but we split a plate.  We used to order one full plate for each of us but we found that we were more than satisfied by splitting their huge single portion.  We stopped and got one scoop of ice cream.  Last year I would have ordered their version of a Snickers Blizzard which is like 650 calories at least because it’s huge.  I enjoyed that one scoop of peanut butter cup ice cream immensely and didn’t feel sick afterward.  It was more than enough.  Much of our battle is in our own minds.  Don’t deprive, use portion control, if you can find healthy swaps that satisfy you – use them.  If you can’t find a healthy swap, then just use moderation.  Deprivation only makes it worse and you will end up bingeing.

I’m so excited at my improvement that after writing this, I’m going to go buy myself something fun (non-food related)!  Keep the course until net time, friends!  Lots of love, I’m on the journey with you.  

Food Journal – 3 Month Update

Well, 2/21 marked three months that I have been using a food journal app (MyPlate) every day.  And I mean every single day even though at times it has been a bit annoying and a hassle.  They say that it takes 3 months to adopt a habit (good or bad) into your life though I think the bad habits probably are easier to adapt because they are usually more enjoyable.  So the breakdown for the 3 months (13 weeks):

Pounds lost: 17.2 (approx 1.3 lbs per week)

Inches lost (8 measurements): 10.75.  Inches lost (3 core measurements – bust, waist, hips): 6.25

When I went back and saw the highest weight I recorded last year which was on 5/21 (which will coincide with my 6 month food journal anniversary date), I’ve lost 20.6 lbs.  Though it doesn’t sound like much in some ways since I have probably approximately 75 lbs to lose still, it’s a big chunk.  Because roughly (since I do not know what my natural weight will be as muscle weighs more than fat), let’s say I needed to lose 100 lbs for the sake of easy math.  So I’m already 20% of the way there going from my highest recorded weight of 2016.  

So 17-20 lbs doesn’t sound like much but when I was in the grocery the other day, I bought a bag of cat litter that was 20lbs.  Lifting it into the cart, I realized this is how much weight I’m not dragging around with me.  Last May, I was struggling like crazy to ride my bike.  I’d just spent the entire winter buried in college classes finishing my degree and I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing to my body.  I graduated in May, at one of the heaviest weights I’ve been in my life.  I’ve been about 5-10 lbs more at one point years ago but here I had crept back up into that range.  Riding my bike was difficult.  

I will give myself a bit of a pass since my peri-menopause was in full blowout mode.  I wasn’t sleeping, my moods were awful (which were probably exacerbated by the weight gain and poor eating habits), exhaustion set it and the hot flashes made it miserable to do any kind of exercise on a hot day.  You can get an idea of what the fires of hell might feel like when you’re riding on a humid 95 degree day and one of those hot flashes hit you.  I had to pull off the bike path and sit in the shade while politely declining offers from well-meaning cyclists who wanted to call 911.  Yeah, no, it’s just a hot flash.  It will pass.  I just hoped I wouldn’t vomit because that’s how crappy I felt.  I pretty much hung up my bike and focused on doing the one thing that didn’t make me feel awful which was walking.  The dog and I pounded out many miles on pavement and trail.  

So how am I feeling now?  Luckily, the hot flashes and exhaustion and moodiness have settled down to a more manageable level.  I think that eating better and exercising even more has helped with this as well as the fact that peri-menopause eventually runs its course.  I’m hoping I am through the worst of it though I still need a sleep aid to get me through the night.  On top of things, I am hypothyroid but with dedication to the food journal and healthier eating, I’ve lost a good amount of weight in 13 weeks.  These factors may make it harder to lose weight but it’s not impossible.  

Since the weather in Ohio has been mild, I’ve been out road biking 3 times already this year.  I’m doing roughly 12-15 mile down and back road rides with the usual wind that accompanies this time of the year.  Last year, I was really discouraged and struggling.  This year, I’m feeling really good and I’m excited about the cycling season 2017.  I’m setting a goal of riding approximately 50 miles a week when the “season” starts which is usually about mid-April when you can start getting out and riding more consistently if you don’t like the cold weather (I don’t).  I want to ride over 1500 miles this year.  A few years ago, I hit 1000 miles but I haven’t been that dedicated since.  

Last night I was down on the rower and noticed I was able to do 20 minutes with minimal breaks.  I feel stronger in general.  After I row, I do some yoga to cool down and stretch.  I noticed I am able to flow through sequences and hold poses better and hopefully more gracefully.   I have much more energy in general and I can’t wait to see how I am going to feel when I lose the rest of this extra weight.  I imagine it will be like walking around with helium balloons tied to my limbs!  I already feel “lighter”.  

So I have passed my initial goal of doing the food journal daily for three months.  I’ve set a new goal of doing it every day for six months which will be 5/21/2017.  By this time I will be a good month into my riding 50 miles a week as well.  I’m excited to see what changes will come from continuing my plan.  I am certain I will hit a plateau at some point and will need to make some adjustments but I am enjoying eating better.  My husband bought me an Instant Pot to speed up cooking preparation so we eat out even less.  No matter what restaurant you favor, it is almost always better calorie wise to eat at home.  It’s also much cheaper too!  We still go out to eat but with less frequency.  Now, being able to whip up a delicous meal in 30 minutes or less on average, it takes away the urge to run into town to grab some fast food.  

Well, onto the next three months!  This is exciting!

I Will Never Do That Again (Skip Exercise for 4-5 Months)

For whatever reason, last November, I decided after reading an article that it wasn’t how much you worked out but what you ate that was more important.  Well, maybe it is but I don’t know why I got it in my head that I would give it a try over the winter months while I finished my college degree.  I was going to be busy with classes anyway, so what would it hurt?

UGH.  I’m 46-years old, not working out for months really affects your body.  First you start getting lethargic and then you start to grow weaker.  For me, depression runs in my family and exercise helps keep this at bay.  Which I knew and which I thought oh, a few months won’t hurt.  Another really dumb assumption.  School kept me busy but I just never felt good all winter.

Winter is a season I struggle with anyway because I am very much an outdoors person and well I hate the cold so I am stuck inside more.  I join gyms but then quit by mid-April when I can get outdoors again which means I have 6-7 months of the yearly fee that is wasted.  I wish they would let you do a winter gym membership for November – April where you could pay one fee up front.  Though I found I end up catching more colds and viruses when I go to the gym even though I clean every piece of equipment before and after use.  That and I’m not a fan of crowds or waiting on people who decided to camp out on say, the leg press, as if it is their personal throne.  There are only so many evil, impatient looks I can give in a day.

Probably unrelated was the fact my thyroid slowed down even more but I didn’t find out I needed a higher dosage of my medicine until spring.  So I put on 25-30 lbs.  Now I am heavier and weaker and more fatigued than I have been in a long time.  I got a new dosage of medicine and pulled out my bike on the first warm day.  I rode a little and felt like crying.  it was as if I was starting riding 10 years ago.  I wanted to kick myself.

Now I am 4 months later starting back to exercising pretty much an hour or more daily alternating between riding and walking or hiking. It has been a slow process and the longest I’ve ridden has been not quite 40 miles.  Last year by August I had ridden almost my 1000 miles for the year.  This year I’ve barely broken 600 miles.  I have no one to blame but myself (okay maybe my thyroid just a little).  Regaining my fitness has been a struggle and I have yet to lose the weight.  My clothes are looser but the scale won’t move but for me it could simply be muscle weight replacing fat.

Mostly though I am frustrated with starting over.  While winter is not my friend, I have to keep exercising almost every day to keep from losing my fitness.  The one thing I have to remember how much better I feel when I work out most days, how much less I eat because my appetite seems to diminish.  Instead of finding myself eating all the time for no particular reason, I’m finding that I wait until I’m hungry and some days I’m not hungry as often.  In a way, not doing what you body was designed to do, move, sabotages you and you end up gaining weight, feeling crappy and lethargic.  It is much like night and day how I feel when I am exercising vs. when I am not.

The moral of the story – Keep moving, every day.  This is more my reminder than your instruction though I would love to hear how exercise or lack of exercise affects you.  The one key I have learned, is you have to pick activities you enjoy.  Me, I have to be outside most times and I never stick with videos, classes or prescribed regimens.  I need it to be fun, like play when you are a kid.  I try to remember to keep active throughout the day which means cleaning my house, working in the yard, taking the dog for a walk or whatever I can dream up.

I’ve decided that I will invest in whatever equipment or clothing I need to keep active this winter.  I’m selling my rollers and going back to the rear wheel bike trainer (wonderful barely used set of e-motion cycling rollers for sale – contact me! :-).  As Denise Austin would say on her aerobics videos, if you rest, you rust.  As my great-grandmother would say, you are only as old as you feel, so she tried to stay as active as she could and lived to be 100.  Sitting on my arse is not taking care of myself, it’s destroying my health.

Note to self – keep moving, stay moving, stay strong.

Why I Love Bike Paths…

Since the closest bike path to me is 35 miles, I do a lot of road riding straight from my driveway though cars fly up and down my country road like it’s the Autobahn.  While the roads out here are fairly straight, there are many hills near my house which when you are not a light person, are a bit of a struggle.  Cue in the wind and I’m usually always struggling on the road while feeling like giving up at any moment.  While I suppose it is making me a stronger rider, I don’t enjoy the ride as much and so it becomes a chore to even get my bike down off the rack and push it out of the garage. 

A shady and wooded path


Lately, I have been trying to reach my weekly mileage goal by peicing together 4-5 shorter rides where I used to do two longer bike path rides a week.  This adds to the ‘chore’ feeling of riding.  I’m simply meeting a goal and am not really enjoying my ride.  Plus the I’m gearing up 4-5 days a week rather than a few.  Though some cycling enthusiasts will say you should ride most days of the week, I’m not feeling like I’m getting anywhere fitness-wise.  Plus, I would like to do more walking or hiking, maybe put in a swim at the lake.  I’m not sure my knees are up to daily riding, I seem to do better riding several times a week for longer stints than fighting hills for 4-5 rides.  

A run along the river


Today, I had an early morning appointment to get the oil changed in my truck 10 miles away from the closest trail so I tossed my bike in.  I figured, I’m that close, might as well ride the path.  The heat across the country has been oppressing, and even though it was only 845 a.m., the temperature was a very humid 84 degrees.  I chose the shadiest section of trail and started at the closest parking lot.  Though the parking lot was in the sun and I was sweating before I even clipped into the pedals, I felt that I was already looking forward to the ride.  When I ride down my driveway, I am not usually excited to ride, but I feel more like it’s a forced march.  

A small lake tucked away


As I crossed the road and passed the dry creek bed, I slipped into the shady wooded area in some of my favorite trail sections.  Instantly, I am in my happy place.  I love the dappled shade, the twist and curve of the path, the river running near, the older couple who say good morning as they ride by, the little dog who sits and waits for me to pass, the black wrought iron benches placed at scenic spots, the downtown buildings, the different bridges I cross, the cemetary that reminds me that life is short, the white mansion that sits on the hill, the small quiet lake, the city parks, the mother pushing two young children in a double stroller with a third child strapped to her chest, the lady jogging who gives me a pained smile, the barefoot fisherman, purple lupine, dame’s rocket, Queen Anne’s lace and the miles that seem to pass without my notice.  Okay that is a huge run-on sentence, but that is just a few things I loved from today’s 22-mile ride.  

An iron bridge that trains once traversed


While I rode today, I wondered why have I been killing myself on more frequent, shorter road rides.  Why not just put in two longer rides on the bike path even if I do have to drive an hour round trip or longer?  If it means I enjoy cycling more, then shouldn’t I do that as much as possible?  Fill in with road rides when I need to.   When I am out riding on the road, I am worried about cars hitting me, fighting harsh pavement conditions, big hills, no shade and really not a lot of to engage my senses.  Miles and miles of crop fields broken up by the occassional home or farm.  

A field of wildflowers


I worry about dogs chasing me or weird strangers slowing down and abducting me while I ride out in the middle of nowhere.  I carry dog spray (pepper spray that shoots far) more for people than dogs.  Not that you don’t run into the occassional weirdo on the bike path. There have been moments when my spider senses go into hyper drive but usually there are people around moreso than riding in the country.

The river view from a recently opened secrion of trail


Not that you can’t have an accident on a bike path.  You still should wear a helmet and pay attention.  I’ve had two bad accidents on a path.  The first one was an ambulance ride and a concussion because I wasn’t paying attention (didn’t I just warn about that!).  My front tire had slipped off the pavement causing me to go end over appetite crashing head first into the pavement (why you wear a helmet).  The EMTs had to drive back in a pickup truck becuase there was no way to get an ambulance to me.  That was certainly an expensive mistake.

A white mansion tucked behind the trees


The second time was hitting a suicidal racoon that darted out of the woods.  Hitting him was like hitting a brick wall which again sent me head over heels and to the ER to later find I had a separated shoulder.  So, while cars are usually no an issue unless you are crossing roads, you still have to be really careful and alert.  

Canal view


That aside, I am a big advocate for bike paths and bike lanes.  They help keep us safe from vehicles though they aren’t bullet-proof.  The paths normally wind through interesting scenery and take you to places you may not normally see from a car.  It gives you the opportunity to interact, even if it’s just a quick hello, with other cyclists and exercises of all walks of life and ages.  They provide normally a fairly flat surface to ride or walk or run.  They help us get or stay fit.  Bottom line is that bike paths are a great asset to every community.

Sick of Starting Over (Fitness)…

We all have something that we struggle with throughout our life.  For awhile we may overcome it but maybe it creeps back into our day-to-day life.  For me, since I was around 11, it’s been weight and dieting.  I spent my childhood not worrying about weight or looks but out playing, exploring and riding my bike.  The only time I was ever on a scale was at the doctor’s office and that number was simply something the nurse noted down or told my mom and that was that.  Weight wasn’t a focus in my life.

Then I spent one summer with my weight-obsessed maternal grandmother who was always on a diet of some sort.  She worshipped the scale as if it had some magic power to make her into the person she always wanted to be.  At the time, I lived in Missouri near my paternal grandparents and that grandmother was too busy doing chores, feeding livestock and milking cows to even care about weight.  She was a bit on the heavy side but I never once heard her talk about a diet or not having a cookie or being upset she couldn’t fit into a pair of slacks.  But in 1981, my parents shipped my sister and I from mid-Missouri to eastern Ohio to spend the summer with my mom’s parents.

My maternal grandparents lived in a small two-bedroom, one bath ranch house built in the 1940’s which was crammed full of antiques and furniture they collected.  In the small hall that connected the bath and two small bedrooms was a dry sink and one day my grandmother led me into the hallway and pulled out a digital scale which was very new-fangled back in 1981.  I was simply fascinated with the red LED numbers that would show up.  She would step on the scale but I was not allowed to look at the number.  I really didn’t know why but she was my grandmother so I obeyed her wishes.  Then I stood on the scale and looked down at the number that didn’t mean a thing to me.  I couldn’t even tell you what it was any more if it even stuck in my mind then.

After that, every day the weighing ritual began.  I didn’t really pay much attention to it, just did as she asked.  The scale just seemed like a toy to me.  Things changed though after a few weeks.  My grandmother had been feeding my sister and I like we were starving kids in China.  I always only ate until I was just full, well except around holidays when the tables were full of so many delectable foods, I would stuff myself until I was sick.  Then my cousins and I would go run around the yard whether it be in shorts or snow suits.  Since it didn’t feel good to stuff myself like that, I only did it around holidays.

Except now, my grandmother was getting upset if I didn’t eat more.  So to please her I was eating beyond my comfort zone.  It was like a holiday at almost every meal.  Then the number on the scale started creeping up.  My clothes started to get tighter and tighter.  Soon they had to take me and buy me new clothes, except now I had to shop in the women’s department rather than the girls department.  I remember feeling sad I had outgrown my regular size which was toward the high-end of kids’ sizes anyway but I wasn’t quite ready to jump into grown up clothes.

When the daily weigh-in came now, I started to dread it and sometimes tried to get out of it.  My grandmother would look at the number and cluck sadly that I was gaining weight.  I felt like I had let her down or I was doing something wrong.  She would then send me out to run laps around the house or ride her old Schwinn bike up and down the street while she watched that no one abducted me.  Like some forced exercise program.   Then she started talking about diets not only in relationship to her since she was always on some diet, but in regards to me. In the midst of this summer, my parents sprang on me that we were moving from Missouri to the other side of Ohio.   I remember crying with body-wracking sobs on the phone to my mom that I didn’t want to move, to leave my other grandparents and the few friends I had to go to some strange town on the other side of Ohio.  I sank into more despair and turned to food for comfort.  Why not?  My grandmother was already feeding me like I was a line backer for the nearby Pittsburgh Steelers.  I already had a much larger wardrobe of adult sized clothes.

Looking back now, of course, I see I was gaining weight because she was literally force feeding me more than I wanted to eat.  It was this entire shaming cycle that to this day, I know my grandmother loved me very much and was a good person, but I do not understand why she did it other than misery loves company.  From that summer on, weight became an issue for me and I was never quite the carefree kid I had been before that summer.  I was creeping closer to middle school age and all the peer pressure, plus I was starting a new school where no one really accepted me.

I have dealt with eating disorders in my 20’s.  I had given up in my mid-30’s while suffering from a bad marriage and depression until I was almost 300 lbs.  At 38, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and trust me, the weight doesn’t magically come off when you start treatment.  At least not for me and most of the people I know who also have this issue. I’ve grown to accept my larger-sized body, stop beating myself up for it.  I’ve donated several scales and quit weighing myself altogether.  It took me awhile but I finally quit beating myself up, started loving myself and appreciating what my body could do even if I wasn’t thin or petite.  I was at least curvy and strong.  I could ride my bike 50 miles in a day or hike as much as I wanted.  I wasn’t running marathons, but I was athletic.

Then late fall, I read an article that documented a study that said exercise was not important that it was the calories that you ate.  I don’t even remember where I saw it, probably something linked to a Facebook post.  However, as I was starting my last semester of college with a full-time class load as well as working, this gave me permission to not worry about working out.  We had moved to the country and I wasn’t joining a gym again so I literally took from November-last week off of exercise.  I spent more time on my backside, lying on the couch and just immobile than I had in years.  At first my clothes fit fine.  Then after my birthday in February I noticed that my jeans were getting tighter.  Then I had a few yearly check up appointments where the scale came into play.  I was shocked at the number.  I had gained a good thirty pounds and since my jeans had been a little big to start with, I had room to grow.

When you spend so much of your time not active, it’s very hard to get back into that flow again.  The first few road cycling rides I took were a very stark testament to how out of shape I had become.  Though 30 pounds may not sound like much, on a bike it makes an enormous difference.  Not only are you having to move that much more weight on two wheels, you also have more pressure on your butt and hands which makes cycling even more uncomfortable.  Last year at this time, I actually weighed less than I had in years because of a medical condition that finally resolved itself in last July.  Riding last spring felt like I had wings, I was fast and could ride much further without as much training.  This spring, I feel like a sloth who can barely turn the crank.  That is why serious cyclists are obsessed with weight not only on their bodies but their bikes.  The more weight, the slower you are (unless you are going downhill) and the less miles you ride.  It is just simple physics.

The first few rides this year, I wanted to give up.  We have moved out to an area that is much more hillier than my previous routes when I rode from my house in town.  The kicker is that my house sits on one of the highest elevations in our county and no matter which way I ride from my driveway, east or west, I have to ride back up a big hill.  Hills are not the friend of the heavy cyclist.  I’ve had to drop out of my normal gear range I rode last year, into the lowest gears I have just to spin up this hill at a paltry 7-9 mph.  That feels like defeat to me though I tell myself, just ride it, you’re training, you’ll get back into shape.  But part of me wants to get off the bike, throw it in the ditch and stomp back home in a fit.  I have yet to do that as my bike cost quite a bit of money and my husband would never let me buy another one.  And that would be me acting like a baby, but I have a moment or two or three where I want to quit.

I wasn’t going to set a mileage goal this year and I’ve changed my mind.  I need the motivation to get out there and ride.  Minimum of 45 with the desired goal of 60 miles a week for me to reach the top range of my 2016 mileage goal since I haven’t ridden but 138 miles this year so far and it’s already late May.  Being mid-life, this is not the time to give up your exercise program.  If nothing else I need it more than ever.  I have a lazy thyroid and I’m moving into the menopausal years or perimenopause where the hot flashes are starting, my estrogen level is very low.  Now it is even more important that I take good care of myself because my body is slowing down.

This winter I noticed my desire and motivation to get out and do things had waned greatly and that I had little energy.  This spring I realized, I have to quit reading these stupid studies and trust what I know about myself.  Exercise makes me feel stronger, better and gives me a ton more energy.  It also boosts my self-esteem and self-image.  Plus my clothes look better on me.  At my recent college graduation, all my dresses went back in the closet after I realized that my weight gain made me look like lumpasaurus in them.  I want to buy some new spring or summer clothes to wear to work, but I am going to wait a month or so.  Otherwise I will be in the fitting room crying.  Know thyself.

So now that school is done, and most of my life goals except for publishing a novel have been met, I think now is a good time to focus on overcoming this lifelong struggle of mine with food, though I don’t overeat like I once did and getting into the kind of shape I want to be.  This isn’t about losing weight but about being able to do all the things I love without the fight and struggle of fighting my own body mass.  Following Geneen Roth’s advice of eat only when you are hungry, eat exactly what you want and stop before you are too full.  Essentially going back to how I ate before my summer at my grandmothers except I get to pick and cook the meals.

The second part is to keep activity and exercise forefront in my day. Push myself to new athletic heights.  The good thing is that I love to bike, hike and do yoga or even swim when I can.  I don’t dread exercise as many people do.  Just being active in general as well whether it be get off the couch and go pull some weeds or take a walk down my country road.  Expand my yoga practice to asanas that I haven’t yet tackled that look too hard.  You get the idea.

This week I have paid attention, consciously became more active and I feel so much better already.  I have more energy, I feel less like a fat sloth, it is amazing what exercise can do for you.  I will not diet, this always backfires as I rebel and end up gaining weight.  It is all about changing my lifestyle and staying active.  I have no weight or clothing size goal.  Just a mileage goal for my cycling this year.  To exercise most days of the week.  To not read some stupid article and give up on all my hard work.  Because when you are in your mid-40’s, you slide back pretty fast and it’s even harder to regain your former fitness level.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Well I don’t want to be slow but you know what I mean.

My goal is simply to make my weight and fitness (or lack of) a non-issue in my life after 35 years.  To be the best I can be without diets or craziness.  I am tired of struggling and I do not want to come back to the point again unless there is something out of my control.  It is time to resolve this once and for all so I can enjoy my life to the fullest.

The Depression Conundrum

Conundrum – a confusing and difficult problem or question. 

This single word is what comes to my mind when I think about depression especially as it relates to myself.  I was thirty-five before I ever was diagnosed with it officially and I’m forty-five now.  Starting at this time of the year, when the days are short and the bad weather impending here in Ohio if it hasn’t already arrived, I start to get anxious and fearful that “depression” will arrive and suck me under into its dark, tarry depths where living becomes the equivalent to trying to walk through a tar pit.  Each step is a struggle, each breath exhausting.  People who have not experienced depression probably will feel I am making up that description for dramatic effect, I only wish I were.

Most people who have never suffered from depression usually believe it’s as simple as “snapping out of it.”  If it were that simple, don’t you think we would do it?  If the pills were a miracle cure, then why do we keep needing them?  They feel like a Band-Aid to me.  They were helpful when I got so deeply depressed that I wanted to literally not wake up the next morning,  so that was a good thing but it doesn’t cure depression, just helps you through it.  Is there a way to prevent depression?  Only thing I found that truly helps is riding my bike as much as possible and taking good care of myself.   But it is a continual battle it seems.  A battle I’m quite tired of dealing with.

Depression is mostly a chemical imbalance in your brain (from how I understand it, I’m not a doctor).  My cousin suffers very similarly the way I do so maybe it is inheirited.  We ebb and flow with the winter months being our worst time.  Obviously there is something to that seasonal affective disorder.  Maybe we are sensitive to things that no one is aware of or maybe our brain chemistry is just a tiny bit off making it hard for us at times to function without struggling with depression.

The holidays are fast approaching and with it comes sadness for me after losing my mom.  Personally, I would like to just skip the holidays.  I don’t get any joy out of them anymore.  They are just stark reminders of who is no longer with us and how the celebrations have changed but I guess that is truly just part of life.  But it doesn’t mean I like it.  Or that I have to like it.  I may not be able to change it but I don’t have to like it.   But regardless, this time of the year starts bringing on the start of depression for me again.  Top it off with I have to get surgery in a few weeks to check for uterine cancer, I’m really not flying too high because I’m more worried than anything.  Anytime the word “cancer” comes up, I panic and for good reason.  My mom died of this horrible, painful disease.

I was out walking in the woods the other day thinking about how tired I was of fighting and worrying about depression.  I was thinking, why can’t things just be normal for me?  No, it’s not normally a life-threatening disease (though it can be) and it isn’t cancer so I should be grateful it’s not more serious right?  My way of trying to look on the bright side.  Be positive.  I’m trying to figure out ways to be able to work out hard enough this winter because last year the gym membership didn’t help and hiking or walking doesn’t do enough.  Cycling has been the biggest help but I need to be able to do it for more than an hour and pretty vigorously.  My trainer I can’t ride more than 30 minutes if I’m lucky because riding in place is hard for me and my trainer is pretty hard to ride anyway.  I don’t run because of my bad knees so I was trying to come up with a solution.

Then the thought hit me, what if instead of fearing the depression, I just let go and go with the ebb and flow of it?  Except of course if it gets so bad that I am considering self-harm which hasn’t happened since I was first diagnosed with it ten years ago.  Actually, I wasn’t really considering self-harm, I was just wishing I wouldn’t wake up.  I suppose that is just as bad.  I always feel like I need to be “on top of it”.  But I’m tired of being super vigilant.  I wondered as I picked my way around the now bare trees on the trail, what if I just accepted the feelings?

What if I just laid on the couch for a week and watched Lifetime movies and ate crap?  What if the depression is really my body’s way of telling me listen, you need to stop, you need to take way better care of yourself not only physically but mentally and maybe step back and really look at what is making silently angry or what isn’t working in your life or what if there is a dream or purpose you are ignoring?  They say depression is really repressed anger which may be what affects the brain chemistry and considering I’m so sensitive to everything, it probably affects me sooner than other people.  Maybe I need to really look at my life, I am sure a lot of my anger is based on losing my mom and the way such a sweet, kind and loving person had to die.

Oh yeah, I’m pissed at cancer, it’s epidemic and no one seems to realize this.  I’m pissed at being treated less than a person at times at my job, though I console myself with the fact that isn’t just me that is treated that way there.  Corporations all over the world treat employees this way.  Sometimes I feel like starting my own business and putting people to work under me in a place that treats them as people and not numbers or stupid children would be proactive but it’s a lot of work owning your own business.  And it doesn’t feel like my particular calling.  Maybe there is a long suppressed dream of mine I am not fulfilling.  Maybe I need to focus more on my writing.  I suppose it could be anything.  But I owe it to myself to sort it out though I am guessing it’s not going to be instantaneous.

I am going to try an experiment of sorts.  I am going to start listening keenly to my body, my mind and my heart.  Stop doing the things I think I should if it goes against what I feel I want or need.  Granted, I still have to go to work, do laundry, grocery shop and clean the house but I think there is a lot I could do to honor what I need rather than pushing it off.  Things lie if I’m tired at 7:00 p.m., I’ll go too bed and not listen to the people giving me a hard time about being old.  Or if I want a candy bar, I’ll eat it but if I want an orange I’ll eat that too.  Or maybe I don’t feel like exercising like a maniac, so I don’t.  Or I would rather hike than bike.  Maybe trying to meet mileage goal for the year on my bike isn’t something that is truly important to me.  If I was training for competition, maybe this makes sense.  But I’m not.

For a little while at least, I’m going to just give in and take care of myself regardless of what other people think or say.  I will take care of my responsibilities and double check that I’m not doing too much for someone else who should do for themselves.  I’m good at that, caretaking, without even noticing it.  I have a tendency to jump in where I shouldn’t.  I should just listen and not fix.

Listening to my body is something I have been working on for years.  Listening to my needs and wants is going to be a little newer for me.  Trusting myself, my body is something that I’ve been trying to do but now I need to move it up to a more finite level.  Picking out the small cues I was taught to ignore.  I’m anxious and excited to see what changes this will make in my life.  I have a hunch, once I do this, I may not be fighting depression as much.  I also have a hunch that once I start honoring my calling and path (as New Agey as that sounds), the depression might subside altogether.  And if it does show up, I will just roll with it as it is telling my body something, delivering an important message.  Maybe to slow down, maybe to exercise more, maybe to not eat crap, maybe to stand up and say NO.

Maybe sometimes fighting depression isn’t the right thing.  Maybe it just means I need to listen more closely and cross each bridge as I come to them.  

A Girl and Her Bike…

Cycling has become a religion to me.  Not in the way of the stereotypical cyclist who races, does tours, watches every ounce or gram on the bike, who lives and dies by the mileage and weighs precisely 95.6 lbs.  Okay I don’t know if anyone actually weighs that but weight is a huge issue in the cycling world, gear and rider.  No for me my bike has become somewhat of a ‘bible’ of sorts (apologies for anyone finding that blasphemous).  In the sense that it is my avenue to find peace and a spirituality that doesn’t come from Sunday services, verses, or commandments.  It is simply my bike and me on the pavement, sometimes the trail but out in God’s great creation we call ‘nature’.

I gain strength from cycling, the sheer at of revolution after revolution as my legs and feet turn the crank which turns the chain which drives the wheel.  It propels me to nowhere and everywhere at the same time.  Physical strength, mental strength, emotional strength.  Two wheels and a carbon fiber frame, some gears, brakes and words in neon green scrawled across my top tube “Go Get Em Killer” that started as a joke but has become my mantra, a reminder to keep going when I want to quit.  Not only quit riding but quit in life.

After over eight months of suffering sometimes excruciating pain, multiple doctors, food intolerances, GI upsets, two ER visits, many tests that came back normal, they finally have found what is most likely causing this issue.  A uterine ablation done mid-2012 that has gone awry and very possibly I will need a hysterectomy.  I’m 45.  I feel like I am too young to think hysterectomy.  I leave the doctor’s office crying, I drive home crying, my daughters want to comfort me but I tell them give me some space, I’m going out to ride.  I’m pissed because I feel like this procedure was doomed from the start and I may have avoided both surgeries, the ablation and the hysterectomy if I need it.  I feel as if my body has betrayed me.  I’m angry that this comes in the middle of buying a new house and moving.  I’m angry my mom isn’t here to talk to about this.

Quickly I pump up my tires, slap a water bottle in one of my mismatched cages, my phone in its holder and clip into the pedals and pick the hilliest route around our small town.  The route that will go right by the house we will be moving to in a few months.  The music in my headphones is loud, I’m challenging cars to hit me (I get a bit stupid reckless when I’m mad – blame it on my Irish side) as I crank through town until I finally climb the overpass over the highway and coast down into a more rural setting.  The wind is blowing against me forcing me to fight harder to keep up any kind of speed.  I’m not really paying attention to the scenery though it is a sunny afternoon, not too hot and at least, not raining.  The road is a straight line that just gently flows up and down hills that are harder than they look.

My mind starts to empty, my mood starts to level as my entire focus becomes nothing more than to crank the pedals and shift the gears to propel me over each crest, coast, climb, coast, climb.  Watch out for the rabbit peeking out of the tall ditch grass, the road kill, the groundhog who can’t decide if he’s going to run in front of me or go back into the ditch.  Slowly my mind picks back up, now the anger has been channeled into climbing hills and I can think logically again.  I can hear messages or emails coming in on my phone and I reach forward to flip the switch to silence the interruption.  At the first stop sign, I change my playlist from the driving beat of my more motivation mix of music to an artist that puts me into a more reverant mood.  I need to think.   Take a long drag off the water bottle, cringe because I can’t stand sports drinks but hate water more and then cross the busy two lane highway before a semi truck hits me.

Back into the quiet, coming closer to our future home that is about eight miles or so from our house.  The hardest hill is right before the descent that passes this place.  The hill and trees to its west obscures the house from view but I pedal by only glancing at the house, I am more focused on the views around the place and see an old school house about a mile up or so east of it.  I decide to ride to that crossroad and turn around.  I am more of an out and back riding for the sheer purpose of seeing what my average speed is because for some reason that seems like it would be more true than a loop ride.  I have no idea if this is true but it makes sense to me.  I’m retracing my steps, the wind is behind me, the terrain is now opposite, there has to be some science there right?

I’m thinking about the pain and the doctors and the tests and the frustration and all the lost sleep I have had since early November.  I am thinking about what other women have told me about the surgery.  I realize that if this is what is to be, it is not the end of the world.  I can be angry about all the tests, but I have a lot of proof that there isn’t any cancer or something else going on with my body.  Just simply this was missed because maybe the first time I visited my OB/GYN in May, I took pain medicine that prevented the physical exam from showing anything amiss. Good news, my next colonoscopy is five years out and I’ve had two with no polyps.  Bravo!

Climbing again, up toward the new house I smile to myself and think yes, I will be happy here.  I will have less gardens to tend, though our lot is much bigger it’s mainly just mowing.  We can sit out on our patio and not be stared at by 20 neighbors.  Or sit on our front porch and not be approached by salesmen.  I click off my music with my headphones switch and listen to the quiet.  A gentle wind making the corn stalks swoosh and dance.  Or the tall grass gently hush, hush.  Simply said, it is peaceful.

My husband and I had a hard time narrowing down what we wanted in a home.  Logically as we always are, we came up with a checklist of attributes the new property needed to have such as a two-car garage attached, enough room for our daughters, maybe a workshop for him, newer rather than older home that is maintenance free as possible.  The one element we really wanted though and took us a long time to figure out was we needed peace, quiet and solitude more than anything else.  The last few years had been brutal emotionally for us.  Our focus had shifted.  Things we once thought we wanted or were important were no longer so.  As is everything else, sometimes the direction of your journey isn’t evident and you take a few wrong turns until you get back on the road you need.  Sometimes you don’t know you need something and it takes awhile to realize it.

I cranked by the house and up the hill.  At the top of the hill is a cross roads and my hometown is way in the distance.  The elevation of this hill is high enough I can see the rolling countryside all the way to town.  I brake at the side of the road for a minute and smile.  I’m no longer angry or sad or frustrated or feeling depressed and old.  I’m bracing my bike with my legs and feeling strong because I just rode all that way out to here and I’m not even tired. Sweaty, but not tired.  I am 45, overweight and according to my tests and with the exception of my uterus, I’m in great health.   I lean down and put my hands back over the brake hoods and clip in my right foot into the pedal.  My bike is an extension of myself, the way I deal with all sorts of life issues.  It is my Zen.  It is the friend who never judges.  It is a vehicle to sort out my life, my emotions, my thoughts.  What I want out of life is much more simple than I ever thought.  Losing my mom put that all into focus.  I push off and both wheels hit the pavement again.  Clipping in my left foot, the fun begins as my ride out was hard.  The ride back is mostly downhill with the wind pushing me.  My cyclocomputer soon reads 25 mph as I lean down into the drops making myself more aerodynamic.  The world flies by and I feel a familiar rush of adrenaline and am finally having fun.

I’m simply a girl and her bike out for a ride.