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!

Food Journal – Week 7 Check In/My Nature Prescription

Almost seven weeks have passed since I started using the food journal app consistently.  My goal is to make it at least 3 months or twelve weeks so I am over half way there.  It has started to become a habit so it seems less cumbersome.  In essence, using the food journal has started becoming a habit and not a nuisance.  I am snacking much less and when I do, I am much more selective about what I eat as a snack.  The best thing is that it has stopped my mindless eating which I believe was one of my biggest challenges.  The other challenge was we eat out a lot and now we have shifted to cooking more just because it is easier to control the calories you ingest.

The other benefit of the food journal is planning.  For New Year’s Eve, we knew we were going out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  We went online to see what they were offering on their NYE menu and we planned it out ahead of time what we wanted to eat and the estimated calories.  Then the rest of the day, we ate lighter to allow for a heavier meal.  Though to be honest, I ate too much.  I really didn’t need either the few small slices of rye bread (mmmm) and butter or the triple chocolate cake we split.  I think I would have given up the triple chocolate cake before the bread.  It was simply too sweet.  But the main point here is making choices and thinking ahead.  And not depriving yourself.  If I deprive myself, I binge and I also feel rebellious which in turn makes things worse.  The key is to know yourself, your triggers and figure out what works for you. You can try to follow expert advice or mine (not expert) but really I find you have to do what works for you. And no deprivation.  No foods are off limit.  No restaurants you can’t eat in.  Depriving yourself doesn’t work as a lifestyle change.  This for me is exactly that.  It has to be otherwise I will slip back and gain the weight (and more) back.

Actually I don’t really care about the weight, I am using it and measurements as a marker but mostly it is how my clothes fit.  Because I can shrink inches and not lose a pound.  I can actually gain weight while losing size because of muscle gain especially if I am training or working out hard.  However, since I am keeping track of my weight, I have lost 11.8 lbs in that 7 weeks or about 1.5 lbs a week average.  My highest weight recorded was this past May (I didn’t record it often then) and using that number, I have lost 15 pounds.  Which means I have made a 50% dent in the ~30 pounds I gained over last winter.

They say how hard it is to lose weight when you get older and especially when you edge into menopause.  However, I have been really surprised how fast and dare I say, easy, this has been.  Other than the annoyance of getting into the habit of using the food journal which with smart phones really isn’t that hard and just adjusting how I eat, I really haven’t made huge changes other than not overeating and being more cautious about eating out.  I still eat ice cream and chocolate and candy bars and popcorn at the movies (small no butter – but I don’t miss the greasy butter which used to make me sick).  I’ve reduced my soda drinking and replaced it with oolong tea in the morning and early afternoon.  The crazy thing about the oolong tea is that I haven’t had a migraine since I started drinking two (large) cups of it a day.  Sometimes if I decreased how much I ate, I would get a searing migraine.  But I haven’t had one in weeks.  I think the second benefit from the tea is that it makes me less hungry due to the caffeine content.  This is not something to drink late afternoon or bedtime.

Also, my husband finally set up our rower in the basement.  It is one with the water tank (House of Cards viewers will know the one) and even on the lowest resistance, I find this to be a touch workout.  It’s not quite been set up a week but I can only do 15 minutes with frequent breaks.  The nice thing is I can take the breaks whereas on my bike rollers, I couldn’t do so as easily.  They claim it works 85% of your muscle groups and I really think it does.  But the best benefit is I’m getting a good cardio workout without having to go to a germy gym and fighting for equipment.  I watch Netflix or listen to music and row away.  Well row a bit then stop, row, stop, row, stop.  You get the idea.

My app (My Plate) credits you earned calories when you workout (it also will link to other apps or you phone if it counts your steps and automatically calculate estimated calories burned).  Though I don’t use the adjusted added calories usually, I try to stick right around the prescribed number allowed each day before exercise, I know that working out affords me more fudge room.  I row, bike and hike for ice cream.  And to feel better.  I am feeling much more energetic, less tired and I’ve accomplished a lot more around the house than I normally do.  Last winter, I turned into a slug.  This year, I’m keeping active though not in the intensity that I do in the warmer months.

Oh, and my winter depression or (SADD)…  Initially I had been using the idea that vigorous/moderate exercise alleviated my year-round struggle with depression.  I noticed big changes when I felt depressed then got out for 30+ minutes riding my bike.  Similar to a runner’s high.  Two winters ago, I tested that theory by joining the Y again.  I could work out on the elliptical for an hour, hard, and not see the same results.  That was frustrating.  I tried the stationary bikes that they use for  the cycling classes.  I tried walk/running on a treadmill.  Never did I get the same result.  It didn’t help my depression at all.

Then I figured it out.  I have to be outside, in nature for 30+ minutes several times a week to help my depression.  Sometimes it’s so cold (Ohio weather), I have to do short walks out into my back yard and breathe in the air and notice the landscape around me (I’m fortunate that I live in the country).   This seems to help as well.  Just multiple shorter trips outside make a difference.  It is even better if I can do it on a sunny day.  But the prescription seems to be not vigorous exercise so much as the outdoors.  Breathing in the fresh air, seeing the sun, and so on.  But it is not just the outdoors, it’s being away from urban areas and into nature.

Stanford University had some encouraging findings about my theory http://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/.  That is why when I lived in town and would walk in the winter, it never seemed to help my depression.  Now I live in the country and I can just walk into my back yard and be surrounded by nature.  But there are parks I visit as well.  My cousin experiences this phenomenon as well.  He gets ancy and depressed if he can’t get away from the city and into nature.  Maybe out genetic makeup is more sensitive to being indoors or urban places.

I have deemed it my “Nature Prescription” which is a hella lot better than Zoloft and all its side effects.  As long as I get outside 3-4 times a week for about two hours total (my guess), my depression (SADD) seems to stay at bay.  So it wasn’t so much the vigorous exercise as I first believed (though there are studies to prove this) but being out in nature that really triggered my brain to act right.   I am still forming my hypothesis but so far based on my experience, this seems to be what works for me.  I am not a physician or a psychologist so I really can’t shell out medical advice.  This is simply my experience.  Exercise also helps regardless of where I perform it as I can feel a big difference in my attitude when I am not active.  That and I feel like a fat slug.  A juicy one that looks like it’s gonna pop at any minute.

As I write this, the sun is out glistening on the new fallen snow and the temperature is 1 degree which feels like -10 degrees  with the windchill.  I will get my nature dose simply by bundling up and taking the dog out to potty.  For like 2 minutes at a time.  Whatever works.

That’s the key, do what works for you and Happy Damn It’s F’ing Cold January!

Food Journal: No Cheating!

I’m just a few days shy of using my food journal app, My Plate, for three weeks.  I’ve lost 9 pounds just logging in my food and keeping within an 1800-2000 calorie range.  No food is restricted and I eat what I want as long as I stay within my calorie range.  I’ve been learning more about portion sizes, trading off and eating healthier in general.  It’s been a good tool to learn the best way to order when eating out.   We tend to eat out a lot but I don’t want to restrict myself from doing something we both really enjoy (not cooking!).  

Things I’ve learned: Portion sizes are a big contributor to keeping me heavy.  It’s easy to overestimate.  I have days that I am not very hungry and others where I feel I can’t get enough to eat.  On my hungry days, I turn more to protein to get me satisfied.  Cooking at home is the easiest way to keep calories under control even though we love to eat out.  We are working at balancing our eating out by cooking a bit more.  This is the best way to eat healthy.  I have been focusing on packing my lunch for work more often as well.  Putting more fruit in my lunch bag to keep snacking to a minimum as well as I purchased snack size bags of microwave popcorn for the days at work that I am extra hungry or stress eating.  And sometimes at home or at work, I will eat more when I am bored.  

I noticed when I get close to my calorie count for the day, I want to flub entries to give me more room to chow down on more food.  I caught myself doing that and realized if I cheat on this, I am actually cheating myself.  I need to be brutally real on this food journal or I’m not doing myself any favors.  I’m sabotaging myself in learning to eat better and healthier.  This is a lifestyle change and if I don’t go all in, then I am going to fail to correct the behaviors and habits that make me feel so crappy inside and out.  I’m not doing myself any favor by flubbing my food journal.  If I want to eat a bit more, I can move a bit more with exercise to give myself a bit of a buffer. 

My clothes are getting much looser, I have more energy and I feel better about myself in general (I sound like a commercial).  It won’t be long until I am going to have to go shopping for a few new pairs of pants to wear to work because the ones I have are getting too big and threatening to fall down.  No one at work wants to see me standing there in my undies and since they don’t have a place for a belt, I’m going to be buying new clothes.  Don’t worry, I’ll survive having to get new things! Ha… I hate shopping for new clothes but I love having them.  

My husband bought us a rowing machine, the kind with a water tank on it for resistance like in the show House of Cards.  He decided to go with this because of the fact it works 80%+ of your core muscle groups and it’s a great cardio/calorie burning exercise.  I can torch up to 1000 calories an hour on that machine or so depending on how vigorous and long the work out I do.  Either way, it gives us an excellent snowy or rainy day option.  Right now it’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home so walking really isn’t an option for me and as much as I love cycling, putting on all that gear to ride 5 miles and get frozen isn’t my thing.  We are just waiting for our older two daughters to move into their new house right before Christmas to set it up in the finished basement.   Though I can attest as much as I exercise during the warmer months, it really comes down to what you eat.  I can ride miles and miles and never lose a pound until I change my eating habits.  Exercise though is key for me to feel good and be strong so I don’t want to give that up either.  Especially at 46.  

I have a Christmas party to attend tonight so I’m eating judiciously to allow myself a little more calorie budget for the fancy food and adult beverages that will be on hand.  A little planning ahead helps.  I may go over my calorie limit but this is a special occassion and I’ve been spot on or under the last almost three weeks.  A little splurge now and again isn’t going to kill me.  But I definitely do not want to set back all my hard work either. I am looking forward to trying on my dress tonight.  I haven’t worn it in a year and I’ve lost weight since this time last year.  That is always a good feeling when your clothes are a bit looser.  🙂

Remember to treat yourself with kindness this holiday and every day.  You’re worth it!  More updates soon!  

Food Journal & Not Dieting

As anyone who knows me knows, that I’m not an advocate of dieting.  I have tried ‘intuitive eating’ but my intuition seems to want chocolate, snacks and sometimes just plain out junk food.  Eating this way has yet to help me get to my natural weight as they proclaim.  Not that I doubt it works for some people, but maybe it just doesn’t work for me.  Or maybe I just haven’t figured it out exactly.  I am not sure what the issue is.  I wonder with all the stuff in my past that revolved around food, my intuition isn’t a bit off still.

I gained weight last winter not exercising much and when my thyroid stopped working just a little bit more so I become even more hypothyroid (aka a slug).  Even when you get your medication adjusted to put you back at normal TSH level, your body doesn’t magically shed the pounds it’s gained.  I wish that were so.  I gained roughly 25-30 lbs over this period that even with all the exercising I did this summer, I’ve lost 0 lbs.  Exercising isn’t an issue for me because I am one of those freaky people who loves certain kinds of exercise (not a gym rat).  Eating is my issue.  So I went back to “My Plate” app and started using the food tracking option again to help me see what all I am eating.

Food journals tend to feel restrictive to me in general and then I rebel against the whole idea of them which means I eat too much.  I really don’t like anyone telling me what to do very much anyway, even if it’s in my best interest.  I am trying hard to look at the food journal as a tool to help me eat better.  I started using it on Sunday and today is Friday so for 5 days.  Each day I weigh myself and record it which I have to look at as simply data.  Weight is just a number, it may or may not show progress.  Which is why I have also added taking my measurements once a month.   I will be cautious of anything that makes me feel anxious which can send me back to eating poorly and bingeing a bit.

So over five days, just keeping within 1800-2000 calories a day as per what my app has chosen for me.  I’ve also done BMR calculations and checked a few other sources so that seems to be a good start.  The purpose of weighing and measurements has to be looked at purely scientific.  Is the way that I am eating good for my body?  Is it making me healthier?  Not that I weigh X amount or am a size 0.  In five days, I have lost three pounds which tells me, I need to eat a little closer to 2000 calories rather than 1800.  That 1800 calories may be too restrictive and I don’t want to do something to slow my metabolism further.  This is all just guesswork to be honest.  I am certainly no expert.  This is simply to teach me better eating habits and show me where I might be sabotaging myself.

The biggest thing I noticed is that I think I eat pretty good.  I don’t do bad but I definitely was not eating as healthy as I believed I was by using intuitive eating.  This is what makes me think that at least my intuition about what my body needs may not be quite as keen as other people or I am still eating emotionally at times or out of boredom.  I’ve noticed that when I am sitting still is a time I want to just eat for the sake of eating.  I want to get into the ice cream, cheese and crackers and so on.  At this point, when I’m sitting and not doing much of anything like watching tv or even reading, these are moments where I am not hungry but yet the desire to eat is extremely strong.  Or if I get stressed or upset at work which can be quite frequently.

So far the food journal is a good tool to help me figure out where I need work as far as the food I consume.  Mindless eating, bored eating, stress eating and simply poor food choices are the top of my list to work on.  Considering I haven’t lost any weight for months and the moment I start paying attention to what I am shoving down my gullet I start losing weight shows me that yes, obviously what I am eating isn’t the best.  Nothing all that complicated and really pretty simple as well as the fact that its easy to tell yourself that you are a healthy eater when in reality, you’re not.

My only goals are to eat healthy and become much more fit.  I do not have any size or weight goals.  Frankly, I don’t care what size I am or what I weigh outside of it would be nice to shop in Misses rather than Plus size only because the selections are still pretty limited with plus size.  If I go into a store that carries both plus and misses sizes, I inevitably end up staring longingly at a top or dress that does not come in plus sizes.  If a clothing retailer wanted to really make a bunch of money, carry everything in both ends of the spectrum so the plus-sized gal isn’t standing there feeling “Damn, I wish I was smaller so I could buy that super cute pair of jeans or sexy dress”.   One of my favorite Lutheran pastors is a very nontraditional woman and she runs a church called “House of All Sinners and Saints”.  I think I would name a store like that “House for All Sizes”.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  Then when you shop with your girlfriends, if you aren’t all the same size range, then no one is left standing there feeling a teeny bit awkward as they browse the scarves or accessories because there is nothing in their size in the store.

I want to be healthier and fit because I want to be able to do more physically.  I want to ride my bike further, faster and longer.  I want to hike faster and longer.  Maybe even run if my crickety joints will allow me.  I want to look in the mirror and see someone who is even stronger than she is now.  I want to have more energy and feel better.   Already five days into tracking my food, I noticed that I feel less sluggish and tired.  It is all about self-care for me.  Taking the best possible care of myself whether it be eating healthy, exercise, trying to get enough sleep, saying no to things I do not want to do, do things that I enjoy and get more out of life in general.

I’m not going to be posting weight updates or anything of that nature, but I may do a follow-up to how the process is going.  I’m really excited about this which is unusual because normally using a food journal feels like a diet, like prison.  This time my mindset is that it is simply a tool to help me be the best I can be and feel the best I can.