Day 60: Morse Code

Today is Day 60 of my campaign. It is Day 18 of Cycle 3. And it is a great day!!

Earlier this week, my sister and I were doing Tabata 1 which includes left and right bridge pulses. Bridge pulse gif EOThey should have looked like what you see pictured here; but Chele and I are not nearly as strong or coordinated as Erin Oprea is. Although we still bear a striking resemblance to beetles in distress, we do our best and we are both getting noticeably stronger. As we were grunting our way through the exercise, Chele asked me (with some desperation and frustration, I might add) exactly what muscles we were supposed to be working. “You’re working your thutt muscles,” I said. You know, the thutt muscles – where the thigh meets the butt. The area around my hips, thighs and butt is always a trial for me. When I lose weight, I always lose first in my face, then in my belly, then everywhere except my hips, thighs, and butt. They are always last. They are last to the degree that as I approach my goal weight, I feel like an apple on a stick. That area is just way out of proportion.

This time, though, things are progressing a little differently. I can see a marked difference in my thutt and in the area where my thighs and hips meet – my thip. My thutt and thips make up the area I usually refer to collectively as My Hams. And, honey, when I started this campaign they were like extended family Easter lunch hams – big, ole things! The idea is to end up with something like a picnic ham. I was prepared for the apple on the stick look for the next several months, but it looks like it may not be as bad as it has been before.

I don’t know exactly why that is. It could be my age and my proximity to menopause. I am inclined to think, though, that it has to do with the cardio and strength training I introduced much earlier in the process this time. During the Great Reduction, I didn’t really start exercising until the first 20 pounds or so were gone. And, when I did start exercising, I walked, nothing else. Because I can’t walk those distances this time, I’m riding the bike, doing yoga and floor exercises. I truly believe that the strength training from yoga and the floor exercises is making a huge difference.

Of course, I don’t think I’m losing fat from those areas any faster because, as badly as I might want to, I cannot tell my body where to lose weight. The only way to spot reduce is very expensive and requires a plastic surgeon. No, the fat isn’t leaving faster, but the muscles underneath are toning, which gives the area a smaller appearance. Additionally, the muscle tissue I’m making and toning there burns fat, making my body more efficient at losing weight – total win/win!

So, here I am on Day 60 with the Morse code dits and dots of my body – my thips and thutts – decreasing at a really satisfactory rate. I’m down at least 23.6 pounds of fat in these first 60 days. My estimated date of campaign completion has gone from December 24 to November 29 (although that will continue to fluctuate) and I just could not be happier about it all.

It’s not easy, but it’s working, y’all!!

 

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Sinking

Today is the ninth day of my third cycle in this weight loss campaign and yesterday was probably my most difficult one so far. I very nearly faltered. I awoke feeling groggy and sluggish, and I didn’t really perk completely up at any point during the day.

Before I started this campaign, I drank more than two liters of caffeinated Diet Coke every day. (I see you judging. Stop it.) I knew that drinking that much diet soda was not great for my body; but, I don’t like water. I just didn’t think about it. It was just something I did. Before I started the campaign, I started weaning myself off the caffeine, but not off the Diet Coke. I noticed that I began to sleep better and that I woke feeling more rested without the caffeine. As I got into the campaign, I increased my water intake (using sugar-free flavor packets – usually grape) and decreased my soda intake. Now, I have to finish my daily gallon of water before I’m allowed to have any decaf Diet Coke. It gives me a treat to look forward to, although I am finding that more and more often, I skip the soda altogether. Monday, I drank two 20-ounce bottles of caffeinated Diet Coke. I suspect that had something to do with my sluggishness on Tuesday morning.

Another possible contributing factor might have been my weekend.

I try to walk 5,000 steps every day. My friend Erin Oprea recommends 10K, but my foot won’t let me; so, I aim for 5K. Saturday was cold and yucky here in Middle Tennessee; so, I decided to go to Lowe’s Home Improvement store to get my steps in. While there, I saw a beautiful bathroom vanity on sale for over 90% off. Well, I had to have it. But, the thing about something like that is that once you have it, you have to install it. So, that’s what I did. Saturday afternoon and night, I ripped out the old vanity (pictured on the left), repaired the floor beneath it, and, on Sunday, I installed the new vanity (pictured on the right). Recently Updated (As an aside, I decided that the new vanity would be my reward for successfully completing my first two 21-Day cycles. I had originally said I would get a mani/pedi, but I am much happier with this as a prize.) While the process wasn’t rocket science, it was A LOT of really hard work. This physical labor was in addition to, not in place of, my regular bike ride, yoga and tabata routine. Because I had not originally planned my Saturday around installing bathroom fixtures, I had not done my exercises in the morning. As a result, I didn’t actually ride my bike or do yoga on Saturday – it was Sunday morning at about 1:30 AM when I did that. I’m still counting it as Saturday, though, because I had not been to bed yet. Sunday was another late night. Again, I was riding my bike and doing tabatas after midnight. Monday was a regular day, but I was still very tired and sore from the weekend. Because I was tired, I drank caffeinated soda.

Tuesday, I realized my mistake.

I was so tired that I took a nap when I got home from work. When I woke from my nap, I didn’t feel any more alert; so, I decided that I was not going to ride the bike or do my tabatas. I would just have to double up today. But, the longer I laid there trying to sleep, the more feeble my excuse sounded and the more painful it became for me to consider failure on Day 8 of Cycle 3. I just couldn’t do it. I got up and finished my tasks for the day.

And I’m glad I did.

I did not drink any caffeine yesterday and felt much more rested when I awoke this morning. I’m not full-on perky or anything, but I’m no longer feeling like I’m sinking, either. The campaign is still moving forward!

It Gets Easier

Yesterday, I successfully completed my second 21-day cycle and I feel SO good about it! Like a kindergartner’s finger-painting, my chart is on my refrigerator with all the boxes checked. 🙂

During the Great Reduction, I rewarded myself for every five pounds lost. Each five pounds got me a movie rental. Each ten pounds got me a trip to the theater and each 20 pounds got me a pretty accessory like a scarf or pair of earrings. This time, I’ve decided to reward myself based on my 21-day cycles rather than the pounds. If I stay true to the cycles, the weight loss will come; but, it’s the consistency I’m focusing on now.

In Cycle 1, I had to: 1. take my medicine daily, 2. make my bed daily, and 3. ride the stationary bike for 30 minutes daily. In Cycle 2, I had to do all those things and: 1. do my yoga disc (Peggy Cappy’s Yoga For the Rest of Us) on alternating days, 3. drink a gallon of water daily and 3. do Tabatas on alternating days. I had Tabata 1 and Tabata 2, and I alternated between them. In Cycle 3, I will do all of the preceding things and: 1. exercise my lower abs on yoga days, and 2. do a series of planks on Tabata days. Today is Cycle 3, Day 1 (C3D1), so it’s: bed, med, bike, yoga, and lower abs. Yoga days are my biggest time commitment because the disc is an hour long. However, the process is truly relaxing to me; so, I don’t mind giving up an hour of TV to stretch, focus, and balance.

As I began this campaign (and make no mistake, it’s a campaign – one battle after another), I was talking with a friend who has never had a weight problem, much less been obese. I mentioned shaving getting easier and she looked at me with this really puzzled look as if to say, “How can shaving be hard?” Well, when you have a tire around your middle, bending over is hard. For the obese, lots of easy tasks aren’t so easy: shaving legs, tying shoes, putting on pants (not just the zipping and buttoning, but standing to put them on), some aspects of personal hygiene (Amazon sells this to help those who really can’t reach), climbing ladders, picking things up off the floor, getting up off the floor, and myriad other things. Tasks that require bending can be difficult even without a huge spare tire around the middle because visceral fat gets in the way. And since that is one of the first places I lose weight, bending tasks became easier almost immediately.

Last week, my friend Sean commented that it looked like my weight loss had sped up. I wish! But, I believe that the reality is that while I was losing weight initially, it was coming from around my organs; so, it wasn’t noticeable. Once the weight had reduced sufficiently around my heart, lungs, and liver, my body shifted to my face, neck and abdomen. I’m not losing weight any faster, it’s just that now others can see it. While I won’t deny that it’s a rush for others to see the difference and comment on it, that rush paled next to the one I got when I was able to balance well enough to put my pants on while standing. The yoga that I’m doing isn’t particularly strenuous, but it has already made a massive difference in my ability to balance and in how confident I feel on my kitchen step-ladder, in taking things up to the attic, and, yes, in balancing to put my pants on while standing.

I get it. If you’re young and/or in shape (or at least have never been obese), you’re probably thinking, “Hats and horns! You put your pants on all by yourself. Big deal.”  But, let me tell you, it was a big deal. These kinds of little achievements are worth gold to me. The thing is, you don’t gain 80 pounds overnight. It creeps up on you slowly; so, you lose the ability to do things slowly – so slowly, that you don’t notice that you have trouble doing tasks or can’t do them at all until you can’t. Then, one day, you wake up and realize that you can braid the hair on the outside of your ankles because you can’t reach there to shave. But, I’m proud to say that hair on my ankles is no longer braidable! More quickly than I lost the ability to reach them, I have regained it. It’s easier to get up off the floor. I am much more confident in my movements in general.

This campaign isn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many days I wanted to just blow off my bike ride (that’s the hardest activity and is the one most likely to cause a sneer), but I didn’t. There have been a couple of days when I dialed the difficulty down a little, but I still put in the time and worked up a sweat. I’ve made a commitment to myself that isn’t always easy to stick to…                                                                                                                                                                     …but it’s getting easier.

The Silver Lining to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Well, my weekend kind of sucked. Sorry. There it is. I spent most of it in a funk over some personal stuff and I really just wanted to eat all of the chocolate in Nashville, then get in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep.

I didn’t do any of those things.

Instead, I washed the windows in my house, washed existing curtains, hung some new ones, cooked a double batch of Jamaican Black Beans with Pineapple Chutney (from the Forks Over Knives cookbook), got rid of some junk, hung a new light, watched a couple of superhero movies and cooked a vat of tomatoes down to sauce. And, I rode my bike each day and did yoga or Tabatas, depending on what day it was. I stuck to my calendar and kept working towards my goals.

And that felt GREAT!

For some reason, I have felt really brittle the past couple of weeks. I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t know if it’s related to the changes in my diet, the changes in my activity, or maybe I’m approaching menopause. I don’t know. I just know that I’m taking my meds daily; but, I’ve still bitten my poor sister’s head off about three times. I’m struggling to get a handle on it.

Throughout the struggle, I’ve stayed away from my bad, old habits and that, frankly, feels pretty freakin’ awesome! I have been known to drown my sorrows in an Oreo Blast or a pint of Phish Food; but, so far, I’ve stayed away from the bad stuff. Honestly, my food diary and my little calendar on the fridge have been great helps in this. I can easily see what I’ve already eaten for the day, how many calories I have left for the day and I can quickly get the calorie count of whatever thing it is I am thinking of eating. I can also walk to the fridge, check out the calendar and see what tasks are marked off and what I still need to do. Having those physical reminders is proving to be really instrumental.

I’m choosing to see my brittle and/or decidedly cloudy mood as a test of my resolve to ditch my old, unhealthy habits and replace them with new, healthy ones. So far so good! And that’s a silver lining I’ll take any day of the week.

30-Day Check-In

Okay, so yesterday was my 30th day on this campaign to get back to a healthy weight. As of this morning, I lost 13.4 pounds during those first 30 days. And, yes, I’m all kinds of pumped about that! I have to remind myself, though, not to get wrapped around the axle of the numbers on the scale. While they are a way to quantify my progress, they are by no means the only way.

My goal is, of course, to lose fat; but, that doesn’t always mean losing weight. As I exercise more and weight train more, I will gain muscle. If I lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle, the scales aren’t going to reflect any difference, but my waistband certainly will! And that’s the real goal – getting back to a healthy size. I want to be strong and fit. I want to be able to ride a bike. I really want to be able to go for a run. (We’ll see if The Foot allows it.) I want to be able to swim a mile again. And, vainly, I want to feel good about how I look again.

I had gotten so big that a 13.4 pound weight loss isn’t really all that noticeable. I’ll probably have to lose another 10 before anyone but me can tell. Still, 13.4 is a great start and I’m really pleased with it.

What CAN I Do?

During my first 21-Day Good Habit cycle, twice I tried to get 10,000 steps into my day. My foot didn’t like it. It started burning and pinching in all the wrong places. I was really annoyed, let me tell you! Thousands of dollars and nearly two years of time spent trying to fix that foot and it still won’t let me walk any real distance. I was annoyed, disheartened, frustrated and downcast. I had to purposefully yank my attention away from those negative feelings. I’ve been down that self-pity path before and that way, there be dragons….and elastic waistbands.

I enjoy walking outside. It was the first exercise I did during The Great Reduction – I took my dogs, Trey and Ellie, for walks. They enjoyed it and so did I – the deer they tried to chase? Not so much. Still, it was great. Eventually, I was able to run for exercise and I really liked that. Because I concentrate on breathing in for three footfalls and out for three footfalls, it’s almost like meditation. I can’t do those now; so, I have a choice to make – do I pout about it and grab a pint of Phish Food? or do I figure out what I CAN do? Well, Wayne, I’m going to take what’s behind curtain number two. (Spoiler alert: I know what’s behind both curtains since I’ve chosen both of them before. The stuff behind curtain number one sucks.)

So, I didn’t try to walk for exercise anymore and my Fitbit is just going to have to get over it. I’m riding the stationary bike daily and working on my strength, flexibility, and balance through yoga and floor exercises done in a Tabata style. When I’ve completed this cycle, I up the intensity of those things to keep my muscles challenged. What I won’t do is pout because I can’t walk or run. Once I reach my goal weight and take pressure off my foot, perhaps it will heal and I’ll be able to enjoy those activities again – perhaps it won’t. I won’t know until I get there.

In the meantime, it’s a waste of my energy to think about the things I can’t do when there’s a whole world of things I can. That’s where I am focusing.

 

21 & Done….Maybe

Woooohoooo!!! I have successfully completed my first 21-Day Good Habit Cycle! On each of the 21 days, I took my meds, made my bed, and rode my stationary bike for 30 minutes. You might look at the first two things on the list and wonder why it is that a 50-year-old woman has to put them on a list to remember to do them daily. Let’s just say that there are parts of adulting that I don’t do well and those are two of them.

When I first started tracking my food intake and exercise, I went back to the app that worked so well for me during The Great Reduction – LoseIt. I stepped on my scales to get a starting weight and was astonished to get an Overload message indicating that I weighed over 330 pounds. Um. No. That’s not right. Rather than run out and buy new scales, I just entered a weight that I thought made sense – 230. Actually, I thought that might be a little high, but better high than low, right? Anyway, after six days of careful eating and tracking, I was at my dad’s and stepped on his scales. They registered 230 AFTER six days, which means that my underestimation wasn’t – under, that is.

I was so irritated with myself, frustrated, bummed, etc., that I seriously considered stopping at the Sonic that is between his house and mine to buy an Oreo Blast, you know, to make myself feel better and all. (I really like Oreo Blasts!) How could I have gained back nearly every ounce I lost?! After working so hard, how did I let myself get as big as a house again?! Well, I’ll tell you how I let it happen – by stopping at Sonic for an Oreo Blast every time I felt stressed!

So I didn’t stop.

After another five days, I weighed at my bosses’ house. Their scales showed a five pound loss. Hurray! Then I bought a set of scales. Those weighed me at 231 – a pound higher than I’d been at my dad’s. ARGH!!!!!

I had a decision to make – take the scales back and get a different brand or just go with them? When you boil it down, what are the scales for? They are to quantify progress, nothing more. Whether they are correct or incorrect at 231, the important thing for quantification is that I weigh under roughly the same conditions, using the same equipment each time. I elected to keep them and I put their measurement of 231 into LoseIt which then calculated a date when I should reach my goal weight – December 24 – a long way away.

Years ago, I lived in Latrobe, PA. When I would drive to visit my family in Starkville, MS, people would often remark about the difficulty of such a long drive; but, I never really thought of it as a long trip. Sure, altogether, it took me about 15 hours and 15 minutes to get from my house to my mother’s; but, I didn’t look at it that way. Rather than going from Latrobe to Starkville, I went from Latrobe to Charleston, WV. Then, I went from Charleston to Lexington, KY, then Lexington to Nashville, TN, Nashville to Birmingham, AL, and finally Birmingham to Starkville. In my mind, those trips were manageable and much easier to face than a giant road trip.

While December 24 is quite awhile from now, it’s an actual date on the calendar. I can circle it. I know when it is. It is December 24th, not someday, not sometime, not some vague future. It’s an actual date and I can work with that. Still, it’s a long way away and that leaves lots of room for discouragement. So, I’m breaking it up into 21-Day Good Habit Cycles – my waypoints like Charleston, Lexington, Nashville, etc. – and I get a non-food reward when I complete them. My first cycle is done. All the dates are checked of on my refrigerator calendar and I’m getting ready for my reward – my first pedicure. This morning, I put up a new calendar. Cycle 2. This one contains the three items from the first calendar and it adds two more.

Each day, I will drink a gallon of water (That sounds like a ton of water; but, it goes faster than you’d think. I have a liter water bottle. I will just drink four of those each day. ) and I will do either yoga or a Tabata depending on the day. On alternating days, I will do yoga. On the non-yoga days, I’ll do a beginner Tabata. Both of those activities will work on strengthening and toning my muscles.

This cycle will be more of a challenge, I believe; but, losing weight isn’t simple and I remember what it felt like to be fit. I want to feel that way again and this is the only way I know to successfully get there.

So. Here I go again!!