Tag Archives: weight loss

Treading, Shredding, But Not Much Shedding

2014-09-06 19.24.05I know that all of my readers have been breathlessly awaiting an update since my August 13th post about our new treadmill and my resolution to Spartan Up! First of all, I want to let you know that I love my new Skechers Go Walks! They fit like a glove, and they’re as cool and light as advertised. I just pull them on and I’m ready to go. No socks, no lacing. I’m not sure whether I’ll want to switch back to socks and my big ol’ walking shoes when the weather gets cooler, but we’ll see.

Along with walking, I’ve been trying to do push-ups and crunches. I figure that aerobics and these two exercises will cover all of my needs. Since I’ve been working in an office, I’ve noticed a big difference in my arms. I’m sure that this has nothing to do with the years streaking by, but my forearms have turned to moosh. The only work my forearms do now is help to support my hand while it clicks a mouse—and that’s only my right hand. If you squeeze my forearms, you get moosh and bones, that’s it. After just a few weeks of push-ups, my arms seem to have more substance.

After a week or so, I realized that I wanted to make sure that I did my push-ups correctly, since I’m doing them lady-style, that is, from the knees. I went on YouTube and searched for “push-ups women,” and found a very informative video that showed me that, yep, I’m doing it right. I’m learning a whole new lingo, though. During the demonstration, the guy instructor said, “Remember that the belly-button is engaged.” I beg your pardon? My belly-button is not engaged. If it were, it would certainly have told me so. Legally speaking, my belly-button is married to my husband’s belly-button. I’m pretty sure that’s how these things work. In any case, every time I exercise, I stay aware of my belly-button. So far, it hasn’t tried to run off and elope.

2014-09-06 19.22.29I do my crunches on the exercise ball that my sweet niece gave me a couple of years ago for Christmas, which now has squatter’s rights on the seat of our family room rocking chair. When I do give it a shock by placing it on the floor, it makes it so much easier on my back. No more excuses to avoid crunches. I do have to put it beside the sofa, though, so that I can grab the arm when I’m losing my balance. So far, I’ve only flipped over once, although it was a terrifying experience. There I am, crunching away, when suddenly I’m seeing what’s behind me, upside down. Twirling my arms in the air didn’t help, but I finally found a way to twist to the side and slide off that way. I was so embarrassed, even though I was by myself! I will not be posting a video.

Treadmills are so awesome in one way, in that you can exercise like mad without leaving your air- conditioned home. I decided to walk for 30 minutes—about a mile and a half—on weekdays, increasing to two miles on weekends. I wonder what our hard-working ancestors would have thought about sweating through two miles of walking uphill, yet still remaining in the same place. What could possibly be the purpose?

2014-08-12 21.46.52David finally made it onto the treadmill last week, in the mornings while I was getting ready for work. Friday morning, a persistent noise was making its way through the floorboards, and as I went up the stairs, it became more and more distinct. Bap! Bap! Bap! “What is that?” I asked. “Oh, it’s nothing,” puffed David. But then I saw something whipping around the end of the treadmill, and he had to admit that the belt was shredding. Oy! There is some force in my house that targets and destroys treadmills. Fortunately, it is possible to purchase a new belt for this model, although it is not cheap. Naturally, we had to try that universal cure for all ills before springing for a new belt, so David coated the top and bottom of the tear with duct tape. I was downstairs reading yesterday evening when he was effecting this repair, and I looked up curiously when he came down the stairs and out the back door with a flashlight. After coming back in, he confessed that the treadmill did not appreciate the duct tape under the belt, and had tripped a breaker. Fortunately, it did not burn out the motor, so I was able to walk a bit today once he removed the bottom layer of tape.

Pink scale

How cute is that? I want one.

So, after all this effort, have I been dropping those pounds like mad? Not a bit. I dropped three pounds right away, put two back on, dropped one, gained it back, and so on for three weeks now. As of this morning, I had lost almost six pounds, but tomorrow morning I could gain it all back. Who knows? I’m trying to give myself that whole pep talk about how the exercise is causing me to build up muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat, so really I’m losing fat. Yeah. So really, I have gained forty pounds of lovely muscle, which will soon start burning all that fat, and I’ll look like a body builder overnight some night. I’m not sure that’s what I was going for, to tell you the truth. And no, my clothes do not feel as if they’re about to fall off, either. If I had wanted to maintain my weight, I could have done that while eating sugar-free homemade ice cream and snacking in front of the television every evening. Believe me, I know this from experience.

On the other hand, I do have another tool to measure my health: my glucometer. Every morning now, I take my fasting blood sugar, and it is doing soooo much better. I had gotten up to a morning bg (blood glucose) between 110 and 115, which is not where an unmedicated Type 2 diabetic wants to be. Since I’ve quit the evening snacks and started exercising, it’s usually around 100, and often in the 90s. Happy day. This is a better indicator of what’s going on inside than my scale. Once it even fell to 89, and my glucometer was so concerned that it asked me if I wanted to make a note. (This is what happens when you have smart appliances. They get all emotional.) Glucose Buddy logoI have also found a new app for diabetics that I like much more than the old one I had that suddenly got all nosy and wanted me to join a group. I uninstalled that one. This one is called My Glucose Buddy, and it seemed to get the highest reviews of all the Android apps out there. It’s free, too! It can keep track of all your stats, and it’s very organized and easy to use. If you have a smart glucometer, you can download your info directly into it, and when you’re ready, it will fax a report to your doctor. That’s great, because I never could figure out how to email a report to my doctor with the last app. I’m looking forward to the day that I’ll have a very impressive graph to show her. I downloaded it from the GooglePlay store on my phone.

My whole extended family is working out and getting fit. My son is running with the “Couch to 5K” app, and my sister has started a kick-boxing class. Not that she needed to get more exercise; she swims every day, walks, and plays tennis like a pro several times a week. We’ve been talking about how weak Americans are compared to, say, the Israelis. With this new class, though, she has a surge of confidence. If the terrorists show up, she can yell, “Look out! I can jump rope for three minutes!”

Skip, skip, skip….

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Spartan Up, Y’all!

As you know if you’ve been here for a while, David and I lost weight a couple of years ago by walking on a treadmill—and starving, of course. Well, the treadmill broke and twenty of the thirty pounds that I had lost have come creeping back. I’m not saying which of the three people in this house broke the treadmill, but I will say that it took me by surprise when I went to walk on it one day and nothing happened. We kept on meaning to fix it, but it needed the entire electronic console, and the treadmill was so old that they didn’t make it anymore.

Spartan Up

Yes, that is a duct tape spine.

Well, last week was quite eventful. I had an annual physical that did not go well, and David had a similar experience with his physician. Furthermore, I had yet another birthday, and to go along with this whole concatenation of events, the library received the book Spartan Up!, by Joe De Sena. In case you haven’t heard of Spartan Races, as I had not, they are events in which Joe tries to kill you so that you can feel better about yourself and life in general. Seriously, the runners have to sign a waiver that states that they might die, and they need to be OK with that. This interests me not at all, but the subtitle, A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life, got my attention. I was exactly at a point in my life where I needed someone to kick me in the backside (to be nice about it), and Joe is an undisputed expert at that. He is extremely motivational, and he gives his opinion as to what makes some people winners in life. First, just plain ol’ grit, the ability to endure pain over the long haul. Secondly, the ability to delay gratification (so hard!). Thirdly, the ability to constantly change your frame of reference. That one was tough for me to understand at first, but he spent some time on it. Simply put, for De Sena, the Spartan Race is created to be so long and difficult, and to be filled with so many surprise obstacles, that your brain and body will be pushed beyond their limits. If you do this sort of training often enough, you will be so tough that you will not whine as if your life is over if the barista makes your latté wrong. Your frame of reference will have changed.

De Sena is incredibly hard on himself. He has not always been an athlete, but rather had a desk job and was bored with life and unhappy with the shape he was in. He and a friend started staging races, began researching health and exercise, and eventually founded a huge company that hosts races around the world. He spends a lot of the book describing the events, most of which I skimmed, but if you like that sort of thing, they do seem amazing. His coaching, though, is what I was after, and he is so tough! If you hit the snooze button, you’ve already lost for the day. Run first thing every morning, so that everything else is easier. He is particularly fond of burpees, which I thought was a seed catalog, but I Googled it, and they are a particularly torturous type of exercise. Look it up; I could never even do one. Maybe some day. However, his training advice covers all areas of life, not just the physical, and I have reread those sections a couple of times. Good stuff, if you need some motivation.

Skechers Go Walk

My Skechers are not pink, but these Go Walks are just so cute!

Back to the birthday. I had unashamedly asked for money for my birthday, since I have needed a new winter coat for a couple of years. I had saved up a bit, and my givers were very generous (especially my husband), so after I ordered the coat, I looked up some walking shoes I had seen in a TV commercial just a few days earlier. Skechers Go Walk shoes are supposed to be very light and lined with a wicking fabric so that you can wear them with no socks. They have a finger loop in the back so that you can just pull them on. I immediately wanted some, since I need to remove all barriers that get between me and exercise, including putting on socks and lacing shoes. Plus, it may be a Southern thing, but I love to be as close to barefoot as possible as often as possible. They had lots of styles, and I got myself a pair of Skechers Go Walk Ultimates. Woo-hoo! I had a big plan to get up earlier, drive to work in my walking shoes, and walk in the lovely park behind our office building every morning. Getting up earlier would just about kill me, but I had read Spartan Up! by then, so I thought could do it.

2014-08-12 21.46.52

Facing the TV, so I don’t have to think too hard.

Just for fun, I clicked onto Craig’s List to see if I could find anything decent in the way of exercise equipment, and lo and behold, someone had just posted a Vision Fitness treadmill for a great price! It was a gym-quality machine, which we need because some of us might put too much stress on a small, folding treadmill. Maybe. David and I counted our pennies and leftover birthday money, and we could get it without being late on any bills, so I immediately texted the seller. We met him the next day, and he even had a big van so that he could deliver it despite the threat of rain. He was a really nice guy and was interested in our old treadmill. I told him he could have it if he took it away. So he, David, and Michael struggled to get this monster machine down the winding stairs and out the door with just a moderate amount of damage to the house and their backs.

I am still marveling at how all of these events came together. We have cleaned the annual birthday carbs out of the house, and I have walked on our new treadmill two days in a row now. My new shoes should be here within a week, and I hope they are as fabulous as they seem. I will go to see my doctor again in February, and I hope to wow her with my amazing progress. In the meantime, I am going around my house saying, “Spartan up!” to pretty much any situation that’s not meeting my expectations. Since neither of my guys have read the book yet, they just patiently sigh and say, “Yeah, whatever.”

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Teal Tracking 2: 35 Pounds Down!

ImageYes, we have lost 35 pounds, but I have lost 15 and David has lost 20! Is that fair? Men are so lucky; their metabolisms are so much faster than women’s. Plus, David has a little ace in the hole: he just started on some ADHD medication, which suppresses his appetite. A few days ago, we were about halfway through dinner when he said, “I’m full. I think I’ll wrap this up for tomorrow.” I stared at him in wonder. He had never stopped eating in the middle of his first helping before, and I didn’t even know he realized that you could wrap up food for tomorrow. It’s a strange new world.

In a follow-up to last week’s book discussion, leaving long periods of time between each day’s food, as in The 8-Hour Diet (really ten hours for me), seems to work well, as does getting a full night’s sleep. I’ll keep you posted.

We’re still walking every day, but as I said to a co-worker last week, it’s still not a habit. I know because I don’t do it without thinking. I have to talk myself into it every day. That means that I do not have a habit of exercise more than two months after I started walking daily. (I started in November walking outside, before we got the treadmill.) Since I’ve seen so many books and magazine articles saying “30 Days to a Perfect You,” I thought I should see why this was not happening.

The first book I read was The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You
Can Do to Get More of It
, by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. The book grew out of a course that McGonigal teaches at Stanford University, and is laid out in a very practical manner. After a chunk of instruction, there is a box with exercises for you to complete in your own life. Each chapter is neatly summarized at the end, and her writing is very logical and engaging.

Ms. McGonigal spends some time touring you around the prefrontal cortex, pointing out the areas for “I will,” “I won’t,” and “I want.” These are the three components of willpower, with the “I want” being your long-term goal, and the others being your quick or habitual responses. She points out that jumping toward whatever you want is not a bad thing, unless the thing you want is a bad thing. If it’s the very last awesome deal on Black Friday, good for you. If you get home and find out that you have absolutely no use for a pair of purple shoes that don’t fit anyone you can think of, perhaps you should have paused. That’s her key phrase: “Pause and plan.” When tempted, think of your long-term goals and how this action will affect them.  This reminds me of Stephen Covey’s very wise teaching: Humans do not have to live like rats, stimulus-response. Humans are the only creatures who can see that there is a gap between the stimulus and the response, and can take the opportunity to make a different choice during the gap. As he says, the success or failure of your life takes place in the gaps.

McGonigal brings up some interesting phenomena, such as “rebound irony.” Scientists gathered a group of people in a room and told them not to think of white bears. What do you think they couldn’t keep out of their minds? Not only did they think of white bears, but if they tried to force themselves to think of something else, a different part of their brain started a scanning program, looking to see if they were really thinking about white bears. McGonigal says to allow yourself to think about your temptation, even experiencing the feelings that you have about it, but to act rationally.

Both the Willpower book and the next book talk about self-control as a muscle that wears out as you use it. If you just struggled with one temptation, you are not stronger immediately, but rather more likely to give in to the next one. Stress lowers self-control, as does a lack of sleep. She also talks about how one small failure can cause us to give in completely, such as being so upset that you ate one piece of cake that you figure you may as well eat the whole cake. She counsels you to pause and think rationally about your long-term goal.

Interestingly, she says that people who assign a moral value to a temptation that has no moral component begin to feel that they are a good/bad person, and they dole out rewards and punishments for themselves. For example, “I babysat for a neighbor’s kids for two hours, so I deserve a cigarette.” Not only does it not make sense, but it sabotages your long-term goals. Self-awareness is essential to reaching those goals.

The Willpower Instinct is a practical, helpful guide, no matter what sort of challenges you’re dealing with in your life.

Secondly, I read the brand-new Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick, by Jeremy Dean. The first two sections of this book are somewhat more abstract than Willpower Instinct, but also more in-depth. The third section is quite practical. Mr. Dean begins by telling us what habits are and why it is practically impossible to break them or make new ones. After this encouraging beginning, he tells us the secrets of those who have succeeded, and how maybe, if you are an exceptional person and work very hard, you might change one or two.

Here are the three characteristics of a habit:

1)      They are automatic. No thinking required. For example, during a power outage, if you walk into your dark bathroom, your hand will flip the light switch anyway. It’s as if your hand is working for someone else.

2)      They have no emotional content. If you are crying while you’re brushing your teeth, it’s not because your toothpaste is tragic. It’s more likely that you are listening to sad music or thinking about something else.

3)      They are situational. The environment you’re in or the time of day triggers a habit. If you wake up, you begin the trek to the shower. When you’re in your car, you drive to work. Most people can’t remember much about their drive in, because their bodies drove while their minds were far away.

Both of these books use the fascinating phrase, “cognitive miser.” I was talking to my MBA-student son yesterday, and he used the same phrase! It means that there is only so much brain power to use at any one time, so we shuffle whatever is possible to auto-pilot so that we can use our conscious brains for the problems at hand. Think about it: When you go grocery shopping, do you look at all of the choices every time you buy a jar of peanut butter? Do you compare taste claims, ingredient lists, and price per unit? Of course not! If you did this for every single product every time you went to the store, you’d never get out of there! Plus, you’d be completely exhausted. Usually, people have made a decision on a product long ago, and they continue to pick the same brand for years. This is a problem for marketers. This same concept carries over to your entire life, such as if your household habits were established when you had four little kids and your youngest just graduated from college. They just don’t make sense any more, but they’re ingrained. The best time to make a change is when your life has had a major upheaval: you got married, you changed jobs, or you “moved house,” as the British Mr. Dean would say. You just had your habits severed, so before you lock in new ones, make some plans!

Perhaps the most insightful teaching I gleaned from Making Habits, Breaking Habits was that— contrary to what many “experts” advise— people who fantasize about being exactly the way they want to be usually fail. That’s because, emotionally, they have already arrived at their goals and are then devastated by the reality of the long road ahead of them. Rather, Mr. Dean counsels, visualize the path to your goal, with all of its possible pitfalls, and work at solving those problems before you get there. You can create statements for yourself, such as, “If [blank] happens, I will deal with it by [blank].” That way, you will not be surprised, and you will already have a plan in place. He advises taking one small step at a time, not a complete life makeover all at once.

I enjoyed both of these books. Although they dealt with related topics, there was just a little overlap, and both relied heavily on scientific research. As Mr. Dean says, scientists can be heard to mutter, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” Indeed.

Check ‘em out! Both books should be available in your local library or at all fine retailers.

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