Pleading the 5th on the 4th

My first three cycles of this campaign were not easy; but, I got through them and felt great. My fourth cycle has been an uphill battle and I’m not doing well at all. I have restarted it several times – most recently on Monday, but I’m still not doing it right. However, I believe that I have identified the problem and will start anew. Again.

In my first three cycles, I did several of the tasks every day. For the fourth cycle, I thought I was going to be cute and change it all up. Here’s the problem with that: a habit is a consistent way of doing something. By switching up my exercises, my consistency was lost. That just threw the entire system into chaos – CHAOS, I tell you! I’m not even drinking water like I’m supposed to. In fact, the only habits I’ve kept to are making my bed and taking my medicine.

It doesn’t matter that I’m still watching my diet and am as active as I was when I rode the bike daily, it was the process of actually riding the bike daily that got my brain into the right place. So, I am returning to the patterns that I used in Cycle 3, only adding mowing lawns two days a week and hitting my StepBet active goal of 7322 steps daily.

This is all about developing healthy habits. I lost sight of that and changed (then lost) my foundation habits. My Cycle 4 overhaul was a mistake. I know how to fix it now; so, pardon me while I go ride my bike.

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On Long Repeat

I’ve been quiet this week both here and on my Facebook page because….well, because I failed.

I messed up in Cycle 4 and added too much at once. My mind was ready to tackle more and bigger exercises; but, my body wasn’t. My muscles are all sore, which is fine – muscles do that and they get over it. No biggie. The show stopper was my joints. My hips, shoulders and knees all really hurt – especially my knees. And my foot started to act up. Big time. And I’m not trying to end up back in a boot or, heaven forfend, a cast! Nope. Not even a little bit.

One of the first things I did was to start taking Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. That product has worked miracles for my sister, for several cousins, and a few friends who work at physically demanding jobs. I have never really taken it; but, it’s been a lifesaver for so many people I know that I’d be an idiot not to give it a go. I’ve only taken it a couple of times now; so, I don’t see a difference yet. I expect to soon, though. I pretty much expected my knees and hips to bother me. My shoulders were a surprise, though, and the thing that has motivated me to do something about it. Now, I’ve started the collagen and am being an advocate for myself.

I took a few days off heavy exercising to get my joints to stop screaming at me. Now I am rethinking all of the things I added this time and am redoing my Cycle 4 schedule. I have come too far to give up – that’s not even a consideration. I have to adjust my expectations and do what my body will let me do. Cycle 4 will now exclude Tabatas that include jumping jacks or anything jumping, really. While I don’t believe that running in place hurt anything, I’m going to skip that for a little while longer, too. There are other ways to get my cardio in until my body is ready to jump around. I just have to be patient. No problem. That’s totally one of my greatest strengths.

Jillian Anderson eye roll 2

 

 

A Different Kind of Exercise: Positive Affect

All kinds of studies have shown that people with a positive disposition or approach to life  (a positive affect) are generally healthier than people who have a negative disposition or approach (a negative affect). People who are persistently depressed, angry, or stressed are more prone to transient illnesses like the common cold and to chronic and even terminal illnesses like asthma and heart disease. Since my campaign is about losing weight, why are we talking about positive affect? Well, my campaign is only peripherally about losing weight – it’s mostly about being strong and healthy again. Good health – that’s the ultimate goal.

As I’ve shared with you multiple times, I have been treated for depression since my early 20s … so for over half my life now. I take medicine daily to help my endocrine system function correctly in its production and use of the neurotransmitters that are involved in my moods and their stabilization. Like many people with clinical depression and other mental illnesses, from time to time I decide that I don’t really need those medications and I stop taking them. Yeah, well. It turns out that I do need them – every. single. time. I try this bone-headed stunt. Because of my decades-long experience with depression, there are a number of popular sayings that make me roll my eyes:

  • Don’t worry, be happy.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.
  • For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.

Ugh. Bitch, please.

I’m sure that you can add some pithy sayings of your own to that list, particularly if you, too, struggle with depression. As ridiculously simplistic and reductionist as I think those statements are, barring major disorders, I do think that we have some control over our attitudes. There are things we can actively do to be more positive. We are not helpless.

exersiscehappiness.jpgThis week I’ve read several articles addressing happiness and the habits of healthy people. One of those habits is an exercise that I am inserting into this 4th 21-day cycle of my campaign. During November, I often see people make a daily post about something for which they are thankful. This exercise will be similar; but, every day, I will choose one thing that was my favorite thing of that day – whether it’s an event, a feeling, an experience, a song – whatever. I’m going to end my day thinking of one good thing from the day I just finished. I’ll share those things on my Facebook page and I would truly love it if you guys would share your One Things there, too.

I once had a manager who constantly exhorted us to “control the controllables.” (Mike Feldman, I’m looking at you.) That directive was invaluable to me when prioritizing and reprioritizing actions to meet our delivery deadlines. I’m sure Mike would be surprised to hear that now, years later, I still use his advice on nearly a daily basis to address stresses from finances to yard work. In this exercise, there are two controllables. The first is my medication, which I am now in the habit of taking right after I make my bed in the morning. The second is my focus, which I often neglect. I can choose to focus on the person who cut me off in traffic or I can choose to focus on hearing Bohemian Rhapsody and Are You Gonna Go My Way back-to-back on the radio. I can choose to resent having to mow my lawn or be thankful that I have a lawn and that I am physically able to mow it now. I can choose to go to bed exasperated or I can choose to enjoy the feeling of my cat Link snuggling at my feet as I drift off.

12106878_1179470198735299_4750950273050207031_nPositive affect “muscles” atrophy easily, particularly when bombarded by the sludge pumped out by main stream media, social media trolls, and general jerks. This cycle, join me in working for better health by exercising our positive affects.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying that people “are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I still don’t believe that we can be happy just because we chose to, but I do believe that we can be happier.

Let’s make up our minds to be that.

Cycle 4: Falling Off The Fridge

HURRAY!!!!! Yesterday I successfully completed Cycle 3! Every day saw me complete every task on my refrigerator calendar – bed, med, bike, water and either Yoga and abs, or Tabata 1 or 2 and planks. The little calendar squares are so crowded with tasks, there’s not much room to add anything and, honey, there are still healthful habits I need to form! Some days I forget to mark things off; so, for Cycle 4, I’m going to drop a few things from the calendar. Making my bed, taking my medicine and drinking a gallon of water every day are habits now. I feel comfortable that I will continue to do those things even if I don’t have a reminder. I’ve been riding the bike since Day 1 and you’d think that would also be a habit that could come off the calendar by now; but, I’m not that much of an adult.

And I still hate to exercise.

During a conversation this week, my sister actually accused me of liking to exercise. Can you imagine?! I straightened her out on that right quick, let me tell you! I still don’t like to exercise; however, I am remembering how great it felt to feel strong and capable. I remember being able to walk past a mirror and not cringe. I remember trying on cute clothes and having them fit. I remember that, I want to have it again, and I’m on my way to making that happen. Sure, I could starve myself back into a size 6; but, that’s not going to make me feel strong and energized. Only exercise is going to do that. So, exercise I must!

The funny thing about moving more, though, is that when you do it, you want to move even more. I find myself not wanting to sit and watch TV in big blocks like I used to. Even when I’m watching something, I keep getting up to do things like fold clothes, tidy the kitchen or sweep. Most of the time, I just opt not to watch television at all. On the weekends, I find myself going places if only to walk and look around. I don’t want to just sit in my house, I want to do something. The weather is finally warming up; so, I also find myself outside doing things in my yard. This weekend, I started planting flowers in pots for my porch and working on some large planters I wanted to make.

The extra activity benefits me three-fold: 1. I am moving, more active and burning more calories, 2. my house is cleaner, neater and prettier, and 3. because I am moving more and my environment is more ordered, my spirit feels calmer. This is just good all the way around!

Movement is great; but, I have not had a rest day since I started this campaign 63 days ago, which is a mistake. There is a reason that trainers don’t work the same muscles groups really hard day after day. The muscles need time to repair and recover. Even if I’m not sore the day after working my arms and shoulders, the muscles still need time. My shoulders have been aching for a few days now and my thighs are feeling weaker than they did two weeks ago. So, I’m taking today off. I’m still watching my calorie intake; but, I’m not going to ride the bike or do any strength training today. I’m also going to switch up my strength training exercises for Cycle 4. Truthfully, I should have done that for Cycle 3, but I let it sneak up on me and got lazy about scheduling. I’m going to schedule this cycle with different exercises to keep my muscles guessing what’s coming next, to give them time to recover after I work them, and to keep me from getting bored!

I will still be printing out a calendar to put on my refrigerator since that has worked beautifully to help hold me accountable on a daily basis. I’m a big believer in doing things that work and this is working. After 63 days, I’m still doing the things I need to do. I have two pairs of pants that I no longer have to unfasten to take off. I’m able to wear another pair of pants I haven’t been able to wear in over a year. My arms and abs are beginning to show some definition even through the layers of fat that still have to come off. I sit on the floor without wondering if construction equipment will be needed to get me up. Good things are happening and I’m excited to rediscover more strength as I tackle Cycle 4 tomorrow!

 

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!!

 

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.