Depression & Nature’s Cure

Depression affects millions of us every day at different levels. Some people are able to function but at a dulled existence. Other people end up bed ridden, unable to function while some even feel that ending their lives are the only way to ease their pain. If you ever feel like part of this last sentence, please, please, please seek help. There is nothing wrong with getting help because it’s not all in your head, you’re not weak or stupid. Trust me.

My own lifelong fight with depression is not a secret and I’ve mentioned in several of my blog posts. And others in my family suffer from it too which lends me to believe it’s somewhat genetic. Though with millions of us suffering, maybe a lot is environmental. We’ve gone from being outdoors, to spending most of our time inside for work and after work. With so many ways to be in front of a screen, we’ve become more of an inside society. Me included. I’d much rather lounge on the couch binge-watching Netflix than go outside especially when the weather isn’t perfect. But therein I believe lies my issue. Too much inside.

I really hate the anti-depressants and I only have utilized them when in a severe depression. My goal is to find ways to keep from going ‘there’ where I’m so dark and despondent that I feel like I don’t want to live. Find my preventative medicine so to speak. I read most articles I see on depression and have read many books on it as well. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist but I think they are just crap-shooting what’s really going on with our brain. There are many studies out there and the one thing I think I have noticed in common is ‘nature’ as far as people feeling better.

They were pushing vigorous exercise as an alternative to anti-depressants. After my mom died in 2014, I rode my bike a lot. After about 20 minutes of riding after literally forcing myself into the gear and out the door, I’d feel like someone flipped the happy switch. I thought maybe it’s a runner’s high type of thing. So I went on the theory that vigorous exercise was the antidote. Late fall I joined the Y so I could continue the vigorous exercise, except it didn’t work. Didn’t matter how long or hard I rode the spin bike, the happy switch never flipped. I tried the treadmill, elliptical and rower going as long as an hour until I was completely drenched in sweat and nothing. Which of course just added to my depression because then I believed well maybe I have to do my vigorous activity outdoors and I just hate riding in the winter and cold.

But the thing I think was missing in this study was where the subjects did their exercise, indoors or out in nature? Japan has practiced ‘forest-bathing’ for years and done studies on spending time out in the woods to combat stress and depression. Other countries and academic institutions have also studied nature’s affects on our mood and depression. I could link up a bunch of studies but feel free to research yourself.

In late 2015, we moved into the country. I started walking the dog up and down the country roads where its more fields and woods than people. When I lived in town, I also walked the dog except it’s not really nature. A lot of concrete, homes, people and while there is grass and trees, I never felt much difference in my mood walking even five miles around town. However, I started to notice after walking the dog about twenty minutes, I’d feel the switch just a little less prominent which lends me to believe that vigorous exercise forces you to breathe in more air which might be why when I was riding, I felt the ‘switch’ stronger than when I’m walking. Maybe there is some microbe or something biological in the air when you’re in nature or the woods that your body needs and a lack of it, throws your brain chemistry off.

I believe exercise helps, exercise is super important no matter what. If you don’t keep moving, you die which is why Medicare and such are pushing seniors to work out and exercise. My theory, which I will test over this next winter, is that the antidote to my depression is nature, being outside at least twenty minutes most days and coupling it with exercise is a double whammy. Which means, I am going to have up my outdoor gear so I can do this on the most frigid Ohio -20 windchill days. I’m fortunate because I live on 1.5 acres surrounded by prairie and woods. I have a pine grove in the back corner of my lot where I can go stand or sit or walk circles around. I love the smell of the pines. Essentially, even if I can’t fathom walking the icy roads, I can walk around my yard to get my nature pill. Vitamin N.

This truly sounds a bit crazy but google it, you will find studies where they have looked at city dwellers and found the ones who live near more green spaces have less depression. Case in point, I haven’t been feeling the best so I hadn’t been outside much. To add to it, they spread turkey shit across the street after they harvested the soybeans. You literally can’t breathe that stuff just smells of death. Coupled with rain, I hadn’t been outside for several days and when I was at work, I noticed I was feeling depressed. So when I got home, I bundled up, grabbed doggo and headed out to walk for 35 minutes.

I left my headphones at home and focused on the surroundings. I walked west from my house pretty quickly as the frigid air was blowing against me but within a quarter of a mile, I can turn south and down into a more protected road. There is more woods on this road as well and the traffic is a bit lighter. The only aggravation on this route is the people on the corner let their two Rottweilers run free and they always come running out to us. They are mostly friendly but my dog goes batshit excited about ripping my arm off. I wish they would put them on a containment system because I’m afraid they will get hit.

Within 20 minutes of my walk, I felt my mood lift. Again, it’s not as dramatic as when I cycle but it does happen nonetheless. Once I got back to the house, I let the dog inside and walked the perimeter of my back yard. The sky was cloudy but the hue of the sunset was cast in the sky as a grayish pink. I stood behind my shop, underneath the pines and listened to the wind rushing through their branches. I felt all the anxiety just flow out of me and go with the wind. I know that sounds hokey but that’s really what it felt like.

After my walk, I picked up some dinner and watched some Netflix. I’m really into Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown where he travels to places like Libya. My sense of darkness, depression were alleviated for the most part and I enjoyed relaxing the rest of the night. I even slept well. Maybe I’m crazy but I’m going to try adding Vitamin N or nature to my regimen this winter, well, all year round, to see if it does indeed keep me from going into a deeper depression. I don’t figure outside of a chance for frostbite and getting hit, it can’t really hurt me to walk or hike this winter. Even maybe just wander around my own back yard on the days I can’t walk on the road or get to a park.

I am going to keep a notebook to jot notes in every day to help me study what helps and what doesn’t. And this spring I will revisit my notes and blog my results. Of course, I must add the disclaimer that just because this might work for me, it may not be for everyone struggling with depression. The best thing to do is to see a trusted doctor and also get therapy especially if you’re not quite sure depression is what is going on with you. Rule out medical conditions because you don’t want to guess you have something when it could be something serious medically. Therapy is also a great tool especially if you have things in your past that may still bother you, even subconsciously. Every now and then I go get a check up as I call it. But try getting out in nature as well. It doesn’t cost much and see how you feel after 20-30 minutes.

Remember, depression affections millions of us, you don’t have to have anything bad going on in your life to be depressed, it can be biological. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s no different than having something like hypothyroidism or another illness. We understand so little about the brain right now. Go with your gut and if your depression gets severe, get help.

I’ll be reporting back later with my results. So give it a try, the nature antidote. Get outside!

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The Quiet Foe

When I decided to ditch any of my metric collecting apps and electronics in the name of living a freer, more spontaneous life, I didn’t realize that these items were motivators that kept away the quiet foe I have fought for most of my life. Without goals like riding 50 miles a week (or near that), walking several miles a week, tracking my food intake, I slipped under the murky waters that I fight every day of my life.

Thanks to my genetics, my traumatic past and who knows what else, this quiet foe is simply chronic depression but it has a way of sneaking up on me. While at first, I felt freer and happier not tracking my steps, miles and calories, I didn’t know that these were indeed motivators that kept depression at bay. Left to my own devices, as depression started winning again without me noticing, I stopped riding my bike as much, stopped walking and hiking, stopped paying attention to what I’m eating. At first I thought that oh, it’s just peri-menopause so I rested more. I was taking care of myself, listening to my body. Except I didn’t realize I was slipping under again. Depression feels so normal to me, it’s so hard for me to detect until I’m almost drowning.

So, I can’t just be what I consider normal. I can’t trust my body or mind to tell me what I really need because without consistent exercise or eating healthy, I get swept back under the current of apathy, disinterest, fatigue and agitation from sleeping less than my usual nights. I can’t trust my body to tell me what I should eat because the depression has me seeking sugar as if it is my only life force. Without healthy food, I further compound my issues especially lack of energy. Without my weekly fitness goals, I lack energy and motivation to get outside, to ride, to hike and do yoga which counteracts my depression. My body just slips deeper into a ‘lazy’ pattern as I lose interest in things I enjoy. I just stop caring about doing these things.

Without forcing myself out to ride, walk, hike and so on, I just will not exercise. Or I make a half-hearted attempt at whatever I chose to do. It’s the curse of the depression. Once I have the goal set in my head and I’ve started into my first minutes of the activity, I find myself enjoying it but sometimes the hardest thing is just putting on my shoes or riding gear or driving to where I am going to perform the activity. Just starting can seem so overwhelming, I end up on the couch or lying in bed reading. Which if I do this often enough, it becomes the norm which lets my quiet foe sneak up on me and drag me down under the surface again.

It isn’t an easy thing to accept, that I can’t just trust my body or my mind to tell me the best things for me because it is so easy for me to slip into behaviors that make my depression worse because it is tiring always having to force yourself out to exercise. The benefit of this though is, the more I do it, the harder I work out, the easier it becomes to get myself started. The less depression has a hold on me. The happier I am. I wish I could just trust my inner judgment but the truth is, depression has skewed my perceptions of what is ‘good’ for me. Lying around all the time is not good for me. Lying around reading after I rode 20 miles isn’t the same. I’ve worked out, I’ve been outside, I’ve taken the sword and struck at the depression monster again pushing him back into his dark cave. The cave that he insists on dragging me back into with him. When I become complacent, he gains ground and when I fight (keep on the fitness, eating well path), I gain ground. The tug of war is so slight, so quiet that it happens without me knowing.

So bottom line, I have reinstalled my apps, I will clip my cyclocomputer back on my bike, I will reset my goals and keep fighting the good fight. This is what I need to do to live well and live happy. Maybe it’s a bit of a burden, maybe it ties me to my electronics and apps a bit, but the tradeoff is greater. The tradeoff is feeling alive, feeling happier and more alert. Goals aren’t a bad thing. Trying to go through day-to-day without any motivation, anything specific to work toward is like walking around blind at times. This has been an interesting manifestation of my theory of taking care of myself meant unburdening my life of everything that motivated me. As it backfired. Big time.

Taking care of myself means having these fitness goals to keep me moving. Otherwise, the quiet foe wins.

Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.

 

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!

Food Journal – Week 9 (2+ Month Check In)

For some reason, I was thinking I had passed the 3-month mark on my food journal journey but I’m just at nine weeks.  I think it is because that it has become second nature to me, recording everything I eat and watching portion sizes, calories, etc.  I don’t feel rebellious against it anymore because it is providing real results.  I have not made any food off-limits, everything is fair game but it does require some trade-offs if what I want is high-calorie.  This has also forced me to see if I really want to eat that particular food.  I find myself thinking or saying out loud “That isn’t worth the calories” which means this journal is forcing me to make better food choices and in the end, hopefully, making me healthier.

The bottom line is I’ve lost 13.2 pounds and 12.80 inches (8 different measurements) or 4.25 inches from bust, waist and hips.  Just right around 1.5 pounds a week average.  This doesn’t quite happen like that.  My weight goes up and down like it’s a see saw and then will suddenly drop out of the blue when I feel like I need to reevaluate what I am doing.  Weight isn’t a great measurement anyway it’s just a marker and nothing more.  I have no idea what my ideal weight will even be but since I am athletic now, I imagine it will be higher than I might guess due to muscle mass.  That’s where the measurements and clothing size help.  And why elite athletes are considered obese by BMI standards.  Muscle simply weighs more than fat.

The biggest difference is how I feel.  Not only as far as having more energy, I just feel better about myself in general.  I feel a little healthier.  I feel a little extra self-confidence.  My ‘fat’ jeans that I bought this past spring when I couldn’t squeeze into my regular size are now almost too big to wear without a belt.  I wore them to work yesterday and spent more time pulling them back up than normal.  Another positive sign.  The pain I was having in relation to my hip nerve has dramatically improved and my knees aren’t protesting quite as much now.  I did some grocery shopping on Monday and I picked up a 30 pound bag of cat litter and realized how heavy 30 pounds really is on your body.  Just almost 15 pounds gone and I am sure that is much less stress on my joints, muscles and body in general.  No, I’m not going to be like that old Oprah episode where she brings out the little red wagon full of fat to represent how much she lost.  Unfortunately, she gained much of it back not long after but has since lost and gained and lost.

That is the biggest caveat I am trying to avoid.  Losing and then gaining more weight back.  Which is why I refuse to limit or banish any food.  Am I going to go my whole life without eating ice cream?  Um, no.  I’ll just be fat.  Am I going to spend the rest of my life starving myself?  Nope.  Again, I’d just be fat.  Am I going to work out an hour every day. Nope. I can’t keep that kind of exercise regimen for life.  Yesterday, since I am in full-blown PMS and am craving Doritos, I bought a single serving bag from the vending machine at work to eat with my otherwise healthy lunch.  I savored every single chip and then realized, Doritos don’t really taste as good as I remembered them to taste.  That satisfied my craving and for the first time, I really tasted what Doritos are like.  Corny, salty, chips of limited flavor.  The chips seemed a bit of a let down after my lunch of a boneless pork chop topped with a herbed Gorgonzola butter and green beans/shallots leftover from dinner from the previous night.

I have become more picky about what I eat.  I consider restaurant meals before I even leave the house, looking up their menu, finding nutritional information if it’s available online and plugging it into my food journal app.  This is a great tool to keep me from overeating which is really very easy to do when eating out.  If there is something I really, really want that is going to blow my day’s calories, I adjust my other meals and snacks to less caloric choices.  Give and take, trade and plan.  Sometimes when I’m into a peak day where I am eating too much, I go down and use the rower to hopefully offset some of the calories.  Supposedly that is supposed to work but who knows with my metabolism but so far, it seems to keep me at least level.  If nothing else, I’m getting extra exercise which can’t hurt.

So as I round into the third month, I have no great expectations, no numbers to achieve except staying in my calorie goal range via my food journal app.  Exercising most days as I can fit it in.  Nothing earth shattering.  Just keep on keeping on.  Learning how to eat better (my biggest challenge over exercise anyway) and being mindful of what I put in my mouth.  The other change I have made is eating all my meals at home at the dining room table so I pay more attention to what I am shoveling in my face.  I’ve read all these tips 100 times in articles and books but seldom put them to use.  I would scoff and say ‘whatever’ in my mind but dammit, they actually work!   So much for being a rebel, it didn’t work in this case.

So until my next post… moderation, moderation, moderation!