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.

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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!!

Building A Solid Fort(night)

First of all, let me say that I think American English really should include the word fortnight. It’s so much more succinct than two weeks. Anyway….

In our last visit, I told you that I had started to build some new, healthier habits. To date, I have ridden my stationary bike for 30 minutes on each of the last 16 days (fortnight plus four) – today being number 16 and I got it out of the way this morning. And, yes, I marked it off on the 21-day calendar that I have hanging on my fridge. That visual, while perhaps childish, is a really good motivator. I see it every time I walk into the kitchen. It reminds me to ride the bike on days when I haven’t done it yet and on days when I have, like today, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment to see all of those days marked off. I have five more days on this calendar and I will have completed the 21 days.

Even now, I can already see a MASSIVE change in my attitude! In the first few days, I hated it – like I started hating it 30 minutes before I even did it. I had to force myself to do it and I pretty much trash-talked myself into completing the 30 minutes. This morning, I had to encourage – not trash talk – myself only through two minutes of the highest intensity setting. (Have the bike set on Rolling Hills so the intensity changes from level 3 to level 5.) And yesterday! Let me tell you about yesterday. But, first, I have to start with last week.

Last week, the hot water knob in the shower was stuck; so, I had to fix it. Saturday, my computer showed no password box on the login screen. After a full day of trying all the fixes I found on the HP website and on YouTube, I had to reformat the thing. Monday, the dryer died. All of those things joined a thousand other stressors in my life resulting in a full-on anxiety attack at work yesterday. I called Dad to talk me through it, which was SO great I can’t even tell you. When I got home after work, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time – I did not respond to stress by eating.

As I’ve told you before, I’m a stress eater among other things. If I’m stressed, I take a lawn chair and a spoon to the Publix frozen food section and make myself at home. Okay, so I don’t actually do that, but I do hit the ice cream aisle pretty hard and I eat the whole pint at one sitting on my couch. Yesterday, I didn’t do that. When I got home, I did some chores then I rode the bike. And I felt better. I felt better because of the endorphins and because I won an enormous battle over my own bad habits. It felt truly fantastic.

I’m excited about this attitude change and I want to keep this momentum; so, I am making another 21-day calendar with the same habits I’ve worked on this month plus a couple of new ones. My first two weeks were solid with this cycle and I am feeling psyched about the rest of it. To be honest, I’m feeling kind of psyched about getting the next challenges started!

 

Counting the Days

For about 20 years, I was a smoker – sometimes with a two pack a day habit. I quit when my son and I had the flu for a week followed by a week of pneumonia for me. Since I couldn’t breathe, clearly I couldn’t smoke. After I recovered, I thought I would see how long I could go without a cigarette – you know, since I’d already gone two weeks. For quite awhile, I counted the days since my last smoke. Then, at some point, I quit counting. Cigarettes just didn’t figure that large in my mind anymore. Now, I think I quite about 10 years ago, but I’m not really sure. I’ve come a long way from those early days of counting the hours.

This morning, I rode my stationary bike for the seventh consecutive day. I have a little calendar on my refrigerator with the days counted out to 21, which is the number of days some experts say that it takes to form a new habit. I hope so. I hope that on day 22, exercising is again something I just do, not something I think about and count. But, if it’s not, then I’ll make another calendar and continue marking off the days until I don’t think about it anymore.

In just seven days, I’ve noticed these changes:

  1. The skin on my face looks brighter. I don’t know if that is from the increased blood flow, the more frequent exfoliation, the increased water intake or something else, and, really, I don’t care. My skin looks noticeably better and I’m all for that.
  2. I sleep better. Making my muscles do some work and actually tire themselves out a bit is making my sleep much more restful.
  3. My lower back hurts less. For months now my lower back has been a tightly coiled spring. Getting out of bed has been a slow and slightly painful process. And I have to be up and moving around awhile before I can bend over to pick up the dogs’ bowls. The last three of four mornings have been much easier. While I still have to move awhile before I can bend over, but the pups are getting fed much sooner than before.
  4. I hate it less. Less be honest, I hate to exercise; I really do. But, this morning, I didn’t dread getting on the bike and the hatred didn’t set in until about four minutes into the 30-minute ride. The ride this morning also seemed to go much faster, but maybe it was the episode of Fixer Upper that I was watching.

I have a very long way to go and I know that; but, I’ve made a solid start and I’m proud of that. I like the change I’m seeing in my spirit and I know that soon, I will see changes in my body shape, as well.

I’m certainly counting the days until that happens!