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Archive for the ‘health and fitness’ Category

If you’re not one of the lucky, naturally-thin folks out there who is blessed with a metabolism that leaves you actually wishing you could gain weight, then most likely some form of weight management needs to become a part of your life forever. Unless of course you want to “accept” fatness as a facet of your identity ala the Fat Acceptance Movement. That’s fine and dandy to me. I certainly have my personal issues with the movement, but if people choose and want to stay fat, that’s their choice. For those of us who don’t wish to accept a fat body and would like to maintain a healthy weight, we have to accept that there is no magic fix to weight management and that it’s going to be a lifelong process.

This is why I’ve personally chosen to embrace a life of health and fitness. It’s hard to get fat if the only reasons I miss a workout are being sick or injured, and if I watch what I eat 99% of the time. I make allowance for special occasions and times for treats, but I know that maintaining a healthy weight is within my reach. My attitude before I began this journey was one of defeat. I had sort of decided that while I knew I needed to lose weight, I loved my food too much. I also thought I was eating “healthy” most of the time and that my job was enough exercise. Then, like most of us, I had my wakeup call. The back injury and the crippling and excruciating pain that came after. I can’t remember exactly the day that I started, but there was one day that I decided I was going to eat the way I normally ate for a day, but write it all down. I was astonished to find that I was eating enough calories for 2 days – doubling up.

Some of you may not know this, but I actually managed to lose a good chunk of weight back in 2001-2002. I started out healthy, then got unhealthy as I turned essentially to drugs to help “rev my metabolism” – it’s so embarrassing to think that at one point in my youth I thought that would actually work. It did kind of work, yes, but I felt like crap and looked like crap, too. I also didn’t build any muscle – in fact I’m pretty sure a lot of the weight I lost was muscle. Either way, for some reason my old habits came back and as I got comfortable in my life situation at the time (a new relationship), I stopped watching what I ate, stopped regularly exercising, yet for some crazy reason I didn’t expect to gain back the weight I lost. But I did, with a vengeance.

I’ve vowed “never again” especially after the pain I went through. My petite frame was not meant to carry that much extra weight, especially since I tend to be “top heavy” when I put on weight – no wonder my back went out! I was carrying around the equivalent of several bulk bags of rice on my body. No way do I ever want to go back! But the key mentality to have if you ever lose weight is that unless you stick to what works for GOOD, the weight can, and most likely will, come back.

I mostly bring up this point because a lot of people see weight loss methods as only a means to an end that they’ll get to stop one day, and then just go back to normal, yet not put the weight back on. Or some people slim down quick for an event, say a wedding, then after that they decide that they no longer need to work on it. Also, a lot of these diets focus on omitting an entire food group from your diet instead of working on ways you can permanently change your habits for good health, changes you can live with for life. I’ll pick on the low-carb diets for a second…I don’t think I could live on a low-carb diet for life. I don’t think anyone really could. Also, a lot of people don’t stick with exercise for life. They see it as yet another means to an end, just like they view their diet.

The fact is, watching what you eat and daily exercise are not only good for weight loss or maintaining healthy weight for a lifetime, they are also just generally good for your health. I’m just wondering who wouldn’t want to do all they can to enhance their quality of life into old age? I’ll cite the example of my grandmother who did live a long life, but she was very unhealthy. Sure, she lived to be 86. But she was miserable and sick for the last 15 years of that life. She smoked, was an alcoholic, did not exercise and did not watch her diet – she basically lived on TV dinners from the mid-80’s until she was placed in a retirement home in the late 90’s. She wasn’t fat, but she was very unhealthy. She had emphysema, stroke, and heart disease. I’m wondering if she may have possibly also had liver problems due to her drinking, which she didn’t quit until she was checked into a retirement home. My family found her stash as they were moving her! And my family kept a close watch on her and took turns caring for her each day, she just hid the booze that well! We never found out who was buying it for her because at that point she was no longer driving. Anyway, my point is that people have this mentality for some reason that they will “die anyway, so why bother?” Well, of course we’ll all expire eventually. Healthy people die every day, too. But to me it just seems downright foolhardy not to at least try and maintain good health anyway. When I’m in old age, I want to still have my faculties about me, I want to still be able to move around and go do things. I do NOT want to be sitting on the couch watching television all day when I’m old. I want to be interacting with others. As long as I’m physically able, I’d like to do volunteer work when I’m old. I’d like to still be exercising every day. I’d still like to do a lot of fun things as well. I don’t expect to be hanging ten on a surfboard when I’m 80, but being able to walk and even possibly run at 80 sounds amazing and very doable if I were to continue taking good care of myself. Plus if I have kids, I feel like I would owe it to them to take good care of myself, to lessen the burden on them with my care when I do get really old. Other case in point, my own parents. They’re already experiencing some frailties in their 50’s. I grit my teeth at what it’s going to be like to care for them when they’re older. It’s always hard to care for elder parents even if they are very healthy, but my parents are not as healthy as they could be. The main thing is their smoking, although they’re both putting on weight as older adults.

Part of the problem I think is that for generations people were told that total decay and frailty is just a part of getting old. Losing your memory, losing your faculties, losing your ability to care for yourself, were all seen as inevitable. I think the baby boomers were also told that, which is why I think my parents never really considered their health when they were younger. Right now I’ve made a conscious decision to not repeat the same mistake. I refuse to accept health problems as inevitable things that can’t be prevented. Yes, I acknowledge that there are cases where a person was very healthy and still got sick. But I’m still not willing to gamble and just lie down and accept it. I’ll be proactive.

Which brings me back to weight loss. I’ve made a promise to myself that once I do reach my goal weight, I will remain on a maintainence plan. Part of that plan includes weighing myself once a month. If I start to creep over a certain weight, I will look into why and change my habits. I am not one of those people who has a fast metabolism – I accept that if I want to be a certain weight I’ll always have to watch it. I’d much rather do that than end up unhealthy and unhappy like I was. Plus, I’m young now and it’s easier to deal with this now than it is when a person gets older. I’d so rather get a handle on it and master the good habits now than wait until my 40’s to be proactive.

Some links that help strengthen my point: http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-exercise13-2009jul13,0,6577878.story
http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/03/us/exercise-and-longevity-a-little-goes-a-long-way.html
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/hq01676
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10074

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Being sore after a good workout is not anything to be worried about, in most cases. Usually the pain is an indication that your muscles are working to repair themselves (and make more of themselves, yay!) after you worked them hard. Furthermore, it’s good to note the difference between sharp, stabbing, acute pain and just the dull ache. The sharp, stabbing pain does indicate that you should rest the injured muscle. Usually a pulled muscle does need to be rested, and iced as well to reduce the inflammation. However, if you get a dull ache after a workout, it’s nothing to be alarmed about and you can still exercise the next day – and sitting around being inactive really doesn’t actually help with the dull aches in my experience. Your muscle was made to, and wants to move.

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Amy Tracks Her Progress is my new blog. It’s more or less an online archive/back-up of my spankin’ new food/exercise journaling/progress tracking program I designed for myself by tweaking a food/exercise journal template I found on The Balanced Weight Management site . Go to my new blog and you’ll learn of how I tailored my new journaling system to work just for me (although it may help others as well). I’ll be keeping a Weekly Assessment page (which is also in spreadsheet form on my PC), as well as my journal entries (which are also saved as Word documents on my PC). It will differ from this blog in the sense that it’ll focus mainly on my personal weight tracking and thoughts regarding weight, whereas this blog’s topics have strayed all over the place (not that there’s anything wrong w/ that).

Also, I have a page on there with pics of myself at various stages of weight gain and loss since 2001. I’ve blocked out my face, as a personal safety and privacy measure (I only show un-masked photos on more “private” venues online where only people I know can see them), but it gives a bit of a visual representation of my battle of the bulge. It also helps me, because sometimes the number on the scale isn’t always the whole story.

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I recently had a discussion with someone who has tried a few times to get into an exercise routine/healthy eating pattern, and always got impatient as far as seeing results. This person also maintained that they never enjoyed it, always felt sore no matter what, and it always felt like a boring chore to them. This person also has a large appetite and gets hungry often, and tends to overeat. This person is not terribly overweight, but very out of shape.

Results don’t come overnight, and sometimes it can be several months before a person starts to see the changes in their body. I think others often notice before the individual does. When you see yourself in the mirror every single day, it can be hard to realize that your body is indeed changing. I for one never thought I’d be dysmorphic about my own body, but for months after I first started I saw the same ole’ fatty in the mirror when other people were noticing visible changes in my physiology. Even recently people are noticing things before I do (namely the fact that I’m starting to have defined hips, etc. and becoming more height-weight proportional).

I asked this person what they did, if they stretched, etc. I came to the conclusion based on their answers that they had thrown themselves into a very rigorous and intense routine too fast, that they weren’t stretching or doing anything else to help sore muscles (hot baths, ice, etc.), and choosing activities that they found inherently boring. This person also hates standing up for long periods of time and maintains that they always get sore no matter what. I had a counter-argument for every excuse this person threw at me, and the conversation got frustrating for both of us so we decided to change the subject. But I ended my points with this person by saying that there has got to be a way for them to eventually find being active enjoyable. It will help this person’s longevity, give them more energy every day, and be beneficial in a huge number of ways. To this person’s credit, they get frustrated with themselves because they know the health benefits of being active, but they feel so helpless about actually applying it to themselves.

So I guess the point of this was to say that people who are new to exercise and out of shape need to ease into a routine. Walking is a great way to start…it’s the first physical exercise most of us learned how to do as toddlers. It can start out slow and go fast. I still do it a lot, I don’t do too much running because of some leg pain I tend to get, but you can burn as many calories power-walking if you do it fast enough, without near the impact of running. Furthermore, stretching is essential. There are a ton of websites out there that can show through pictures and tell you how to properly stretch all your major muscle groups. It’s best to have a bit of a warm-up, stretch, then work out, take a stretch break in the middle (I notice a huge difference when I don’t do this), then cool down and stretch again after the workout. Once the body adapts to regular, mild physical activity, kick it up a notch gradually until you’re used to more strenuous activity.

Exercise is important, but if your diet is craptastic, it’s not going to give you enough health benefits. Some people’s taste buds are so corrupted by junk food that it’s easy to find the taste of healthy stuff “bland” at first because your taste buds are so used to being bombarded by way too much sugar, salt, and trans fats. I highly suggest for people who are having dietary challenges that are blocking them from weight-loss, health improvement, or both to read a great book called If It’s Not Food, Don’t Eat It: The No-Nonsense Guide to an Eating-for-health Lifestyle by Kelly Hayford, a clinical nutritionist. Hayford puts it all forth in a very non-threatening and straightforward way. One thing I respect about it is that she doesn’t preach any dogmatic diet-style (veganism or raw foodism for example) but more discusses the benefits of switching to mostly real, whole foods as opposed to processed stuff. She also discusses how to handle your lifestyle change around family and friends, and the psychological aspects of such a diet change. She has stories of real people and the dramatic, personal changes that happened for them from changing their diet.

To maintain a healthy body weight and good health in general, it is absolutely essential that a person is both physically active AND eats right. The end.

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Well, it’s been a long time since I posted. I realize that there are going to be infinitely stupid things said and thought about weight loss and healthy lifestyles in general, so it might not be the end of my desire to post on here. I’ve had many unfortunate things happen in my personal life in recent months. My friend passed away, both me and my housemate lost our jobs (he was laid off, I was fired). I’ve luckily landed a job, but it doesn’t start until next week so things are tight financially. But either way, it’s been a rough go.

I am not perfect. My weight loss has come to a standstill, and it’s because I haven’t been 100% with my diet and exercise. I tend to cycle through stages where I’m gung-ho and into it, and stages when I’m not. Luckily with diet, I never tend to overeat enough to gain any weight back…but I’m steadily maintaining. I haven’t been into working out lately, either. I’ve definitely had times where I’ve fallen off the wagon with this whole thing, but I’m still walking every day and keeping tabs on my weight. It’s not always easy, especially when I get depressed about things I tend to want to be isolated from people. Ugh, it’s like a battle of wills with myself. But as long as I don’t backslide, I’m not terribly worried. The difference between now and my past is my awareness of this tendency within myself to stagnate. Also, I actually own a bathroom scale and check my weight frequently enough to be aware of it. It’s a manual scale as opposed to digital so I can’t use the “battery died” excuse.

There is definitely more to life than weight, but at the same time I have to remember that my weight is somewhat of a manifestation of my emotional issues. It’s a symbol of falling down and staying down (to me), of stagnating, of not moving forward. I also admit that maybe a small part of me is still afraid to experience the life of a thinner person. I’ve never been a slim adult. Social attitudes and expectations are slightly different for thin people, by my observations.

Old habits die hard. I still feel proud, however, of the fact that I have never given up on this goal, even if I have “taken breaks” from actually really working towards it. I’m still around 30-ish pounds overweight. I used to be around 80 lbs. overweight. That’s definitely nothing to sneeze at, but at the same time if I had been stronger in my will over the last 2 years, I’d have reached my goal long ago.

I think posting in this blog might help me get motivated again. I hope so!

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OK so I posted last week after experiencing an illness of suck. The nurse practitioner I saw assumed I had a bacterial infection and put me on antibiotics. To be fair, my symptoms mimicked a lot of bacterial infections, like bronchitis and such. BUT, here’s the thing. After being on the antibiotic for a few days, my symptoms did not improve, they only worsened. What’s more, my roommate also started having the same symptoms and his duration of symptoms and such matched mine exactly. Not only that, multiple people I know had the same thing going on. Because of the duration and severity of the symptoms it’s leading me to theorize that people were actually experiencing a strain of influenza. I deduced that it wasn’t a cold simply because of the fact that people had high fevers and were down for the count for days on end, and with colds it’s not usually that severe. What annoyed me is that medical practitioners hand out antibiotics like candy. Antibiotics have saved countless lives for sure, but they’re overused. We all know what happens when you overuse these medicines: you lose your tolerance for them, and bacteria evolve to be able to resist them.

Overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry is very disturbing because people can actually become infected as a result of these supergerms infecting the animals that they eat. This is why I don’t eat that much meat, mainly because I want to purchase it from local, non-factory farms that not only treat their animals better during life, but they also don’t overuse antibiotics (some don’t use them at all). Also, check this out: Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health

SCARY SHIT. So will we allow antibiotics, which were once considered miraculous and lifesaving, to kill us all? Only time will tell. I would personally like to commit some activism to the cause of convincing both patients and doctors that they are not a cure-all for everything and to stop prescribing them unless they are truly needed. I also plan to boycott commercially-produced pork and only purchase it from a farmer I know who uses sound and sustainable methods to raise his pigs, and uses no antibiotics.

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I hate it when people try a certain type of approach to diet, then decide that since it worked for them it must ultimately work for others and then they get all dogmatic about it. Who’s to say one style of eating is right for everyone?

There are so many approaches out there: South Beach, the Schwarzbein Principles, the Paleolithic diet, Atkins, the Zone, and the list goes on and one. But here’s my take on it: Why not just eat HUMAN FOOD? Why sink your money into books and other implements of a prescribed program (which they claim you have to buy in order to get the benefits) when you could just eat good, plain, whole foods?

To me, this means eating good, unadulterated fats (non-hydrogenated) from mostly plant sources, complex carbs, no added sugar, lean protein, and lots of veggies and fruits. Avoid high fructose corn syrup, avoid white-flour based carbs, and reserve sweets for special occasions. Get your fats mainly from things like olive oil, avocados, flax seeds, unrefined extra virgin coconut oil (refined coconut oil is hydrogenated – don’t eat it!), hemp seeds (so rich in omegas), fatty fish like salmon, nuts, etc.

I stopped eating soy and my hypothyroidism disappeared, by the way. Anecdotal evidence FTW! I don’t think soy is all that great for us.

Lately I have been indulging in too many refined carbs, and I can definitely feel it. For one, you lose the fiber and the nutrition. Two, it sends your body into sugar-crash mode. I always feel more fatigued and less “peppy” when I eat these things. But at the same time, I know for the rest of my life I’ll encounter them. It’s going to be my willpower’s strength that will determine how much I indulge. I’m attending a birthday party tonight with desserts involved. I made homemade, from-scratch chocolate chip cookies to take. I plan on eating a good dinner beforehand so I don’t arrive hungry, but I’ve decided to take one bite of the main desserts. Luckily the girls will also be providing fruit salad.

After tonight, I plan on cutting down my sugar intake drastically. I always allow myself a weekly “sweet treat” usually on the weekend, but lately I’m finding that I go a little too overboard with that, so I’m going to modify my allowance and make that “sweet treat” some unsweetened, dried fruit. I love dried fruit, especially mangoes! And we sell them at work, so I can buy a few of the dried mango slices in bulk, and have that be my treat instead. I’m also going to be mindful of avoiding things with high fructose corn syrup. It sucks because HFCS is added to so many things, even things like bread! Luckily I know how to bake my own 🙂 Also I find the less wheat I eat the better I feel anyway. When I’m eating mostly cooked whole grains like rice or quinoa, I feel like those carbs “work” for me better than wheat (I think the gluten is the problem).

People might laugh at me for this, but one thing that’s worked for me in the past with avoiding too many sweets is pretending that the cookies or whatnot have been poisoned and if I eat them, it’ll lead to my demise. This is a partial truth, of course, because you pay for eating too many sugary things with your health.

I don’t want to be super dogmatic, but at the same time I think sugar is the biggest problem for me. It’s a trigger, too. If I eat too much sugar it sends me into binge eating mode. It’s crazy. I’ve got to pretty much all but give it up I feel.

A dessert buffet to someone like me is like handing an alcoholic a whole fifth of Jack Daniels and saying, “here, just have one shot of this, and save the rest for later!” Ugh.

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