A Healthy Lifestyle? Yeah, About That.

j0442430Several months ago (wow, has it really been that long?), I began my journey toward fitness and a healthier lifestyle. The idea of Looking Good Naked was not the goal, but the catalyst that drove me to consider more than just getting skinny but getting fit and, more importantly, healthy. 

I had a great start.

Just as I anticipated my schedule during the month of February killed it or slowed my progress so significantly it…well…killed the forward or downward progress I was making. 

I can make excuses for this and, as an excuse for making excuses, say that I’m attempting to analyze where I went wrong in order not to make the same mistakes from here on out.  But, let’s get real.  I’m going to make some excuses here.

First excuse, my time, or schedule got away from me. 

It did.  There were days there were I was working 16 hours a day, not getting home until 8:30 at night and then having to deal with attending to three children with their various needs for attention and care.  Fortunately, the two older ones were able to fend for themselves, but they still needed some contact time and the nine-year-old really needed the whole bath, bedtime routine thing.  By the time all that was done there was no time for workouts for me.  Furthermore, I was wiped out, which leads to excuse number two.

I didn’t plan ahead for meals. 

j0399199Poor scheduling or over-scheduling led to poor shopping which led to inadequate or poor meal  preparation which led to more eating out than I should have or quick, unhealthy meals (like spaghetti) that didn’t quite move me in the direction I wanted to be headed.  Furthermore, they made me feel lethargic. Excuses number one and two combined, led to excuse number three.

I got sick, several times.

I’m not normally a sick person, but the crazy existence I was living especially during February eroded my immunities, I think, and left me susceptible to every cold or virus the kids brought in the classroom.  Of course, I wasn’t keeping up on either food planning or workouts at that point and that gave rise to my fourth excuse for not making progress toward my goals.

I started missing workouts.

Yeah, well, everyone who ever began a workout program knows how this slippery slope goes.  Skip one, then the next time it becomes easier to skip then the next is even easier until you are merely looking at the fitness video case instead of pushing play.  Pass another bag of that really unhealthy popcorn disguised as a healthy snack and let me down the whole thing as I ponder whether or not I have enough energy to even change into workout clothes let alone do the whole routine.  Yeah, you get my drift.  By the middle of February, the Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle so stopped. 

Enough of the excuses.

Fall down.  Hurt self.  Sit down for a minute and get bearings.  Get up.  Look around.  Refocus.  Keep walking.

j0145598Enough.  I’ve vented, got it off my chest, I’ve bemoaned my fate long enough.  I can’t beat myself up over it.  As Rafiki, from The Lion King, would say, “It’s in the past!”  Yes, it is in the past.  What is done is done and I am done making excuses or beating myself up because I failed. (It actually feels good to get it out there.) I made the choices I did and my healthy life isn’t over, just delayed. I didn’t go backwards, but I made progress and then stopped.  I’m moving forward today, right now.  I have a plan.  I will…

  • Plan ahead for the busy weeks (and there are plenty of them coming up).
  • Plan ahead for meals.  This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Plan workouts in advance so I can schedule around those coming long days when I am out consulting in the evenings after a full day in the classroom.
  • Drink water and get lots of rest and keep up on my supplements.
  • Make the most of Spring Break by working out and eating smart.

So, with that being said, I’m done here for today.  I have to go work out.  I’ve been momentarily distracted, but I haven’t caved and given up.  That’s definitely a good thing. I know I can do this!j0402666

About Those New Year’s Resolutions

j0402319Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year?  Did you set any goals that you’d like to work on for yourself?  If you did, how are they coming along?  Have you kept at it or have you, like so many others, found your enthusiasm waning as the year progresses and the gloomy, dark days of winter (sans the celebrations and plus the bills of the previous celebrations) drag on? If you’ve let up on pursuing your New Year’s Resolutions, it’s not to late to get back on track. 

Numbers, Measurements & A New Scale

The other day a friend of mine and I were chatting on Facebook and he asked me about my New Year’s Resolutions.  This person is one of those friends who lives quite a distance away and checks in about every couple of weeks or so.  This was the check in, I suppose.  During that conversation he mentioned that he still reads my blog and wondered if I was keeping up on my New Year’s Resolutions.  I was pleased to be able to report that not only have I kept up on them, I’ve lost 5.5 inches.  That was Wednesday.

Today is Saturday and Saturday for me is weigh in day.  I’m pleased to announce those numbers have again changed. 

But before I reveal the numbers, I have decided that I must get a different scale.  I have a cheap one and I am absolutely certain the number it registers is not accurate.  The reason I know this is because I cannot get the needle to stay on zero with no weight on it.  I also can’t read the thing when I am standing on it and any shift of my feet sends the needle spiraling around the dial.  Squatting on the thing to get a better read doesn’t seem to work either. I often fall off before getting an accurate read.  Not a good look.  So, today, at some point I will go out and get a more accurate (aka. more expensive, I think) scale. Till then I’m not reporting my weight loss because I don’t know what it is.  I think it’s a pound or two, but like I said, I can’t be sure and I just don’t want to fudge those numbers.  If I get the new scale and I’ve been off, it could be psychologically depressing.

The good news is my measurements continue to drop.  As of today, I’ve lost a total of 7.75 inches! That’s a combined total of all the measurements, of course.  Separately, in inches, that’s 1.5 off the hips, 2.5 off the chest (good-bye back flab), 1 from the waist and 2.5 off my thighs (I only measure the right one), and my bicep showed a one-inch gain this week (muscle definition, gotta love it) for an overall loss of  three quarters of an inch on the bicep.

j0441048 Looking Better Naked, Feeling Better Clothed

What’s even better is when I look in the mirror, I’m beginning to see the me I used to know.  I’m not there yet, but I’m looking better naked.  I’m definitely feeling a lot better clothed.  I have more energy and the very, very best part of it all is that I no longer feel as though I’m one step away from the assisted living facility or grave.  I’m beginning to think that paintball with my daughter and her boyfriend might be a possibility this summer as well as actually running again.  Yes, you heard me.  Running.  I hate running.  I look like a hippo running.  I’m graceful in the water, but like the penguin, walrus or many other amphibious creatures I’m somewhat awkward on land especially at high speeds.  But, I’ve already made plans to go running this spring with one of the women I work with.  Yeah, she’s ten years younger than I and will kick my butt, but I’m competitive enough that I’ll work to try to keep up.  That can’t be bad.  I’m pretty certain I’ll never see my 7 minute miles from my triathlon training days again, but I don’t care, just to be moving at something more than a walk and not falling will be a good thing.  What is it I really want to do with all this?  Whatever I feel like.  It is going to be so good to be strong and more agile again.  These thoughts keep me plugging away.

Smooth Sailing, Not Exactly

I have to say, it hasn’t been easy or perfectly smooth this month by any means.  As expected, the schedule is crazy tough to keep routine so I can fit my workout in at the same time every day.  This isn’t going to improve either as I have seven consulting events lined up between now and April which take place in the evenings, in addition to my day job.  Further, my social life is pretty full and I like it that way.  (It also explains a bit why you haven’t seen me here as much.)  I’ve also had my moments of discouragement, stuffing my face with the Bugles and chips the kids brought from their other house and simply, as I mentioned in my last post, throwing the rope on all of it .  In spite of it all, I’m pretty pleased that I haven’t given up on myself and I keep on plugging away.   I’m really successful on some fronts (watching portion size, eating healthier, no drinking during the week, lots of water, consistent exercise) and I’ve failed in some areas momentarily (the binge snacking one week and missing exercise for four days in a row the same week…not good!).  It’s a mixed bag.  The really positive thing about this is that I’m continuing to force myself after every slip, to get back up and get on track. j0442363I’m staying with it this time.  Because of that, I will be successful.

Refuse To Give Up

On a larger level, I think this is what so much of life is really like. Life itself is one big mixed bag.  The good is mixed in with the bad. The successes are intertwined with the defeats. We hit bumps in the road, we derail, we get back up, we keep moving on.  We do it because we must.  We do it because the alternative is less pleasant that the current pain or discouragement.  We keep trying.  We keep working.  We keep hoping.  We keep living. We derail.  We cry.  We hurt.  We heal.  We move on.  It is life.  If we are very lucky, we find others along the way who, though the specifics of their journey differ from ours, the lessons are similar or, if not similar, interesting.  We find friendship.  We connect.  We experience kindness and caring.  We find love in all its many forms in smiles of friends, the hugs of children, the laughter of companions, the conversations with those we care about and enjoy being with. 

The journey to fitness for me, has been far deeper than obtaining physical results, though, let’s be clear, I’m not going to mind looking and feeling better pushing 50 than I did when I was ten years younger.  It’s also been a very internal journey as well.  As my Facebook Friend said so well, “It’s a process of clearing out the junk, both externally and internally.”  I’d have to agree.  That’s exactly what it has been for me.

If you made resolutions this year and you find your enthusiasm and determination faltering, it isn’t too late to try again. Join me.  We can do it together you and I.  Whatever your goal, your dream, your hope.  It can happen, as long as you simply refuse to give up on yourself.  I’m not going to.  Don’t you either.

The Wild Mind

Elephantine Women – Not Exactly Politically Correct

j0427640 In my earlier post titled, Looking Good Naked, Custis wrote a rather lengthy comment because the topic clearly resonated with him.  While his comments might not be considered by many as politically correct and might even be incredibly offensive to others, he makes some reasonable points.  If you haven’t done so, go read my original post, read the comments, most notably his, and those that follow (at the time of this writing there are none) and then return here to read what I thought of his comments.  I’ve written it as though I was responding in the post comments to him.

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LOL!  Custis, that wasn’t exactly PC, but it’s your opinion and you are definitely entitled to it.  :)  Thanks for commenting.  I do, as you might expect, have a few questions for you based on your own logic but before I go there I want to clarify some things, just in case, about what all this is really about for me:

1.  This is not about me just trying to obtain some cultural standard of airbrushed skinniness and beauty. 

2.  This is not about me just feeling fat and ugly due to the preponderance of cultural expectations for beauty which I am surrounded by and which I fear I do not measure up to.  (I am surrounded by it, I don’t measure up to it by virtue of the fact that I am no longer in my 30’s, so what’s the point with that, and I really don’t care, okay, well sometimes I care, but not usually.)

3.  I am the person I am trying to impress right now and no one else.  I am not trying to look good naked to meet anyone else’s approval but my own.  That demands a firm fit body that works and feels good (has energy and is more positive in my outlook, etc.) not simply a smaller body.  If, by chance, I do end up impressing anyone else with the progress I make, that is merely gravy.  It is not my goal.  I’m the one I have to wake up with each morning and it is about time I decided that that is the person I’d best be getting to know and working on feeling comfortable with. So far, I’m not quite there yet, but I’d like to be.

Just sayin’ because anytime we start talking about “Looking Good Naked” or getting in shape or losing weight there’s lots of room to misunderstand motivations.  Mine is, simply, I don’t feel good.  I don’t like it.  I know what to do.  I need to simply stop making excuses and take the Nike approach and just.do.it.

Now about your comment…and back to my questions:

1.  You said that I should stop eating everything that tastes good?  Okay, so does this mean I must toss the asparagus and the Brussels sprouts and the avocado that I find to be incredibly yummy?  I suffer from borderline anemia and need my deep greens, how’s that going to work?  You said stop eating everything that tastes good?

 
j0387212 2. If I only eat from the produce section how am I going to get my protein in order to sufficiently rebuild those muscles I’m using and working when I weight train (you know that piece of the plan you seem to have left out where I stack weights on a bar and try to then lift it, press it, squat it or curl it?)  Yeah, definitely I need the protein.  I also like my meat.  Hee! Hee! 

3.  Is self-discipline in dieting all that is required?   I hate to tell you and I’m not a fitness researcher or expert or anything and, while I get where you are coming from, when you "diet" your body begins hoarding stuff and stockpiling fat and then when you eat again, more of the stuff is stocked up by the body, so to speak and less of it is used. Yes, over time, doing this you will lose weight, but you also destroy your body’s muscle tissue.  This results in what I like to refer to as someone who is skinny but still fat and very likely unfit.  It is not healthy.  That is not where I’m going.

4. Further, there is some good research and information out there on this.  You can Google it. I know you like to do that kind of thing so have at it.  I bet you find out what I found out.  Getting fit is not simply about the foods we eat or don’t eat, it is more than that.  This is why most credible sports/fitness people will tell you that it is much healthier to eat five small meals a day rather than three larger ones and yes, you need to have some healthy fats in there too, but, true, not a plateful.  There’s more to it than I’ve described, and that is an oversimplification of things to be sure, but don’t throw such a theory out just because you don’t understand it.

Now, as for your “elephantine” friends, might I suggest that it is very possible that they are eating correctly all through the day and not losing the weight for other reasons than you suppose?  I’m not saying that you are necessarily incorrect, I don’t know for sure, but my experience and my own study leads me to conclude that it takes more than just changing one’s eating habits in order to really lose serious weight in a healthy way and I might even go so far as to conclude that in order to really be effective a regimen of weight training is a must in addition to good diet and regular aerobic exercise.

Personally, I’ve done this fitness thing a lot in the last 20 years since I quit swimming a couple of miles a day and cycling 25+ miles too.  (Yeah, I would run at least 5 miles on the alternating days when I wasn’t cycling, but then, marriage, kids, a real job came along and kinda pre-empted all that).  I tend to be one of those who gained an excessive amount with each pregnancy and have topped over 213 before in my life, on not just one but several occasions (all of them pregnancy related).  While I’m not there now, the same principles will apply as I seek to get my body back in shape, because, you see that is really what it is about for me. 

Here’s why:

1.  I personally enjoy food and I am not going to hurt my body or ruin my life because I’m anorexicly watching every calorie.  Oh, yes, I will change what I eat and how much, but I’m not going to be sick about it if I fail occasionally.  I’ve been there done that too, got down to 119  pounds doing that one summer and, yes, the world wondered if I was sick.  I wasn’t bulimic (I can’t stand throwing up) and I wasn’t anorexic, but I was headed there.  I was obsessive and eating about every diet pill ever invented.  I went from about 140 pounds (which is a good weight for me to be) especially if it is the right amount of muscle down to 119 in a VERY short period of time.  I’m told the stress that creates on the body is the equivalent of shaving off about ten years of my life.  Yeah….not doing that again either.

2.  I personally am not about losing weight.  I really don’t care what the scale says.  Nope.  I don’t.  I care what my jean size is. I care what the tape measure says, and whether or not the flabby skin under my arms is cut and toned (which means it is going to be really helpful when it comes to digging up yard this summer).  I care how my legs look in a short skirt and heels (which right now I wouldn’t even attempt) and I care that I can do what I need to do without getting winded which is what those sexy supple legs in the short skirt and stilettos will be very capable of doing. I really care that I get those swimmer flat abs that I always had (until that 4th child came along) back. Because a strong back and abs, along with the strong legs, arms, chest and shoulders, means I’ll be able to split my own firewood (something I can’t do now) and look damn sexy doing it.  I care that I feel strong and able to handle whatever might come.  This isn’t ever going to happen by just eating the right stuff and less of it. Your approach will make me suffer headaches, and make me cranky, and that will negatively impact all my relationships and the next minute I walk into the school cafeteria I’ll be ordering up all that junk and inhaling faster than a brand new Kirby vacuum on a dirty floor.  I’m not doing that either.

j0402319Bottom line:  I have to stack on the weights.  And, yes, I do mean stack them on, though not right away and not all at once. And, hate to tell all the folks out there who believe that women should only do lots of reps with lower amounts of weights because they will just bulk out and become manlike.  Wrong.  Myth.  So not going to happen.  Watch and see. Or…Google and find out for yourself. 

3.  Further, if I’m going to be healthy, which is really my ultimate goal here, I have to involve myself in regular aerobic activity (and this doesn’t include chasing my kids around all day).

Do you see a pattern here?  In my three-pronged approach to my “physical” fitness (and this whole thing is about so much more than that for me) there is diet (meaning eating the right stuff in the right amounts, not starving), weight or strength training, and cardio exercise or aerobic exercise.  Two of the three have to do with physical exertion and calorie burn only one has to do with food.  Understand where my focus is going to be?  It will be on all three and I won’t starve to do it either.  Watch  me.

 

Now that you’ve quite patiently endured my little rant (thank you so much for throwing that door wide open),  I do agree with the main thesis of your comment which was it simply takes self-discipline.  It does, though it isn’t always so simple as I know you are well aware.  It means saying no to some things and saying yes to some other things and when it all gets difficult or inconvenient it means doing it anyway. It means picking yourself up when you fail and pressing on instead of caving to misery and giving up.  That’s the internal component I’ve referred to so much before now.  The Bible in Proverbs 23:7 states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he”.  What we think determines so much of our success and failure in life.  This journey is not an easy one.  I know that.  It takes not only self-discipline, determination, and a whole host of other character traits I will need to draw from in order to be successful.  Stephen Covey, in his book, Habits of Highly Effective people lists as Habit #2, “Begin with the end in mind”. 624231_79466469 In a sense, that is exactly what I’ve done here as I seek to envision not only me in a more fit body but me with a healthier lifestyle going on.

And, now that you’ve distracted me enough with this little topic, I must refocus my efforts and get going on that workout program.  My day is getting away from me and I have a date with the produce section at my local grocery store after I get done working out. 

Cheers and thanks for commenting,

The Wild Mind

Looking Good Naked

j0423115At this time of  year, fitness centers typically experience an increase in membership.  If you belong to a club or gym you might find that for the next eight weeks it will be tough to find an open treadmill or elliptical trainer. It seems looking good naked is on everyone’s mind after the holidays.

There is another excellent post over at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy about physical appearance vs. feeling good. She brings up a number of great talking points on the topic of body image issues, being a slave to the scale and our self-esteem and how it connects to our physical appearance.  We often say that our self concept shouldn’t be based on how we look but, for so many of us, it is.  I maintain that for many of us, how we look matters a great deal because how we care for our bodies is often indicative of deeper feelings we have toward ourselves and our value as individuals.  If we want that to change then how we go about changing our physical appearance is the first step in beginning to care about and for ourselves.

Lose the Scale

j0422209Being an ex-competitive swimmer, swim coach and cyclist, and also and ex-aerobics and fitness trainer, I know how ineffective the scale is and how it can really work against one’s efforts at getting healthy. One’s weight can fluctuate a pound or two every day and even more for some women, depending on the time of the month.  In addition, if you are enslaved to the number on the scale, but you are truly about percent body fat rather than weight you might get to a place in your fitness regimen where you actually begin to gain weight while continuing to lose inches.  Those who absolutely use the scale as the sole measuring device in their quest to look good naked run the risk of ignoring some better health indicators. They can become easily discouraged and frustrated.  This is counterproductive to the person who really has the goal in mind of becoming a healthier, more physically fit individual.

Percent of Body Fat is A Better Indicator of Fitness

I prefer to consider percent body fat or Body Mass Index  and inches lost when I work on improving my fitness level (because muscle weighs more than fat and building muscle eats fat).  One can be a size 3 and still be very fat.  I don’t want that for me.  I want the toned look and you can’t get that by merely losing weight on a scale you must transfer fat to muscle somehow.  If you are seriously overweight or out of shape or have never really done any serious training, please do two things:

First, get a physical and a physician’s okay before you begin any exercise program.  Even if you are relatively good health, this is always a smart move. 

Second, seriously consider investing in a personal trainer who will meet with you for an hour once ever two weeks for, at least, the first eight weeks of your program.  Even two sessions with a personal trainer can be incredibly valuable in helping you jumpstart your motivation and your journey back to fitness.

Toward A Healthier Lifestyle…A Personal Journey

While I know a great deal about the right things to do and the right ways to think about my body, its appearance and its health, I like many, many others have become negligent over the last decade. Sure there have been periods of good fitness, but I haven’t really stuck with them.  Of course, I have to cut myself some slack.  I’ve endured a pretty volatile decade personally, have been homeless and battled an emotionally abusive ex.  When survival is priority one, looking good naked gets much lower priority.  Even so, I’ve let go of some really great eating habits, stopped the consistent exercise and weight training program I had going and simply shifted my fitness priorities to the bottom of the list.  I don’t look horrible, but I really don’t look my best.  More importantly and more significantly I don’t feel my best. I find that it is when I don’t feel my best that I am most prone to worrying about my appearance, suffering a loss of confidence and self-esteem and I’m especially prone to really stupid questions like “How hot am I, really?”  I hate being in that place mentally and physically. 

j0402353Big Little Wolf’s post, my own personal journey to date, and experiences like these are crystallizing for me a sense of direction as I consider my own health and levels of fitness.  Note that I did not say weight loss program.  Because for me, though weight loss will inevitably be an outcome I hope to accomplish,, I am not venturing down this road with that goal in mind. In my post, two days ago, I spoke of moving toward a healthier lifestyle.  It’s true, I want to look good naked because that mirror in my bathroom is not exactly gentle in revealing the truth about my physical appearance, but I most certainly and more importantly want to feel good all of the time, not just naked.  I don’t just want to get smaller, I want to get better.  And better, might not necessarily weigh that much less, but it will look better naked.  It will walk further and faster.  It will not get winded. And, since I am the one looking at myself in the mirror, groaning daily with disappointment in myself about the extra pounds I’ve packed on and the muscle tone I’ve lost, and feeling disappointed with what I see (because the disappointment represents not beauty or lack thereof, but a deeper sense of loss) then looking good naked becomes important to no one…else…but me.  I’m the only one that matters.  It is indeed a deeply personal journey, but one with very visible results.

Getting Comfortable

But there is something even more significant at play here for me.  It is that idea of feeling comfortable in my own skin.  It is that idea that it is what it is and it is the best I can do so who cares what anyone else thinks.  Now, realistically I know, I should feel this way no matter what I weigh or what my muscle tone is, but the reality is, this is not the case for me.  Because the big reality is this, how we feel inside our own skin is largely determined by our fitness levels.  Our fitness levels often determine whether or not we look and perform at optimum levels.  All of those things conspire to impact our self image and our confidence in our abilities in other areas. True, self acceptance no matter what, is important.  I’m not suggesting we all have to be stellar examples of fitness and brawn, but when our ability to function at our best each day is implicated, then I suggest that’s the time to really rethink our health and our habits.  Feeling comfortable in our own skin is more about doing the best we can with what we’ve got under the circumstances and I, for one, am not doing the best I can right now.  Not even close.  This bothers me.  It bothers me enough to make a change.  For me, it’s what 2010 is going to be about.

Starting Measurements…The First Steps

j0321131 So, yes, yesterday, I pulled out the tape measure, hopped on the scale and took the front-back-side before pictures in my bikini.  Not because I intend to obsess over every little thing I eat or don’t eat.  Not because I intend to go on a crash starvation diet or crazy workout plan to burn that fat fast.  I’m smarter than that.  And, though I know my body will quickly respond to increased exercise and improved diet due to its past fitness, the reason I am doing it is not to get skinny…it is to change my lifestyle. It is to change my thinking.  It is to become comfortable in my own skin. Taking the measurements now, before I’ve really begun will help me gauge my progress and will motivate me to keep going.  It gives me a starting point.

Fitness is About Character Development and Personal Growth

While this is about looking good naked on one level, it is also about so much more than looking good naked because whenever one begins a journey of this nature there are mental challenges that must be faced and obstacles that must be overcome.  I’d like to suggest that the journey toward improved health for me will be less a journey of fitness than a supreme course in character development.  I will need to test my commitment.  I will be forced to persevere.  I will need to focus and stay focused and that, because I am so easily distracted, will be challenge enough. I will need to flex and adapt to a schedule that changes dramatically twice a year while still keeping up my regimen of good eating and daily activity.  I will need to make some hard choices that won’t be pleasant or instantaneously gratifying (like that second glass of wine or that extra helping of pasta or saying no when I’m just not hungry) if I am to move myself into a place that bodes well for the health and longevity of this physical thing I call my body, not to mention the mind and spirit that it contains.  It won’t “feel” good sometimes at first, at others it will feel better than anything.  It will require me to flex my discipline muscles, tone my determination, and exercise my mental fortitude and push my commitment to my own improvement to the limits. j0402666

But that’s the cost for every one who would accomplish anything of value. 

The Wild Mind

Success is often not a matter of talent, but a matter of tenacity.”  ~Nathaniel Bronner Jr.

How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?  ~Anthony Robbins