Friday, March 30, 2012

Bad Habits: Easy to make, Hard to break

Firstly, I have gotten out of the good habit of posting regularly to this blog. Sorry. I will improve, though this will likely happen from time to time, I get busy at work and with life and the blog suffers.

Secondly, and more worrisome, I have gotten into the bad habit of sleeping in an missing my morning swim and /or water aerobics class. Boo! This happened way too easily. As I mentioned in my last post, my husband and I were having car trouble for a couple of weeks and had to carpool to work as a result. This meant that I missed my morning swim / water aerobics because the scheduling did not work well and I would have had to get out of bed around 4:30am to make it happen. I'm motivated, but not that motivated. Okay, so fair enough, I don't think that slipping out of the routine for a few days is the end of the world - it happens, and it will happen again. The problem is that this week, when I had my car back, I found it impossible to drag myself out of bed in the morning. I missed my class on Monday because I stayed in bed too long and by the time I was ready, I was late. I missed my swim on Tuesday and Thursday and my class on Wednesday because I simply stayed in bed - it was so nice and warm and snuggly and could I possibly get out of it? Then, I would spend the remainder of the day kicking myself for missing my swim. Finally, today I dragged myself out of bed ( honestly, that was the most difficult step) and I went to my water aerobics class. I was primarily motivated by the fact that we are going to my in-laws tonight for dinner, and my mother-in-law makes the BEST tostadas I have ever tasted. I want to have at least one or two (okay, let me rephrase, I'll limit myself to one or two), but they are not exactly low calorie. Also, since we are going out right after work, my time for exercise this evening is shot, I know myself well enough to know that we will stay later than we intend to and I will absolutely NOT feel like doing any exercise when I get home  - so I had to do something this morning. It was as good a time as any to get back into my routine of going for my swim / water aerobics in the morning. And it felt great. I'm very happy I did it. And I'll do it again on's just a matter of pulling myself out of bed - just that first step makes all the difference and can be the key to breaking the bad habit and getting back in line with my good one.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sticking to It

The past couple of weeks, it has been very challenging to stick to my exercise routine. First, my husband's car was out of commission and in the shop for a few days and then mine was in the shop for nearly a week. Add to that the horrific weather we had over the last weekend, and I had to get creative with my exercise plan.

I've missed my usual morning exercise for two weeks due to our need to car pool every day and we couldn't go out and walk or hike or ride bike last weekend because of the hideous weather (hideous weather in San Diego = wind and heavy rain).  So, here's what I did to get in my exercise: When I could, I got in about 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour of Zumba (we just bought a Kinect, so I've been doing Zumba Rush on the Kinect), I made sure to get in my lunch walk at work - when it was not raining, and  then in the evenings my husband and I went to the gym. Last weekend, it was storming horribly, so we stayed in and did Kinect Your Shape 2012 and Zumba. I would not use the Kinect for exercise on a regular basis, but it does work nicely on those days where I don't have time to do anything else, or where weather or other circumstances are keeping me from the gym. I did not get in as much exercise as I would have liked over the past couple of weeks, but I did fairly well, considering the circumstances. The results - I continued my weight loss (down another 3 pounds in two weeks, not bad).  Happily though, I will be back at my water aerobics class bright and early Monday morning and back on my routine.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Trans Fats

It's been a week since I have posted. I've been really busy both at home and at work - but in happy news, I hit 100 pounds lost this week! :-)

On another note,  as part of my new healthier lifestyle, one of my goals is to stop eating so many processed foods and eat fresh foods and foods that I cook myself as often as possible. That said, I am not quite there yet and I still rely quite heavily on frozen entrees (like Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, and Green Giant steamers...) for lunch. They are easy to pack and heat up for a quick lunch at work. These things are pretty heavily processed. So, I was happy last week when I came upon a very useful smartphone / Iphone app. It is called fooducate. I love it.  I can scan the bar code on food packaging with it and it will grade the food and give me important nutrition information about the foods. On the down side, I found out that one of the Weight Watchers Entrees that I was eating pretty regularly has trans fats in it. Yikes. No more of that.

On that note, apparently, Weight Watchers managed to sneak through a loophole in the law that does not require a product to "claim" transfats if there are less than .49 grams in the product. That Weight Watchers would do this annoys me. Now, to be clear, the packaging of this particular food does not claim that the food contains "no trans fats," however, given the purpose of Weight Watchers entrees, I still find it to be a bit unethical to say the least. These entrees are purchased by people who are trying to lose weight. Many people who are trying to lose weight (me), are doing so for health reasons or to avoid health problems associated with things like high cholesterol. Trans fats are VERY unhealthy. Trans fat consumption has been linked to increased risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and sudden cardiac death. The recommended consumption of trans fats is only 1.11 grams per day.  Eat 3 products that are deceptively labeled as trans fat free, and  you are exceeding that. So, shame on Weight Watchers (and I'm sure I'll find more of these as I go, and probably in weight loss products).

If you don't have a handy little app, the best way to tell if a food has trans fats (even if the manufacturer is trying to slide through the loophole), is to look for ingredients that are "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils - these have some transfats in them.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Questioning the Common Wisdom

I think that questioning the common wisdom is generally a good thing because it often leads to very necessary discussion about issues we all take for granted. Recently, I read this article questioning the common wisdom about how we, as a society, approach obesity. I have to say that, while I think the author makes some good points, I do not agree with her conclusion.

The author makes the argument that we put too much emphasis on weight loss. The argument is that we can be healthy at any weight.  If a person eats a healthy diet and is not sedentary (i.e. exercises, even a little bit), then the person should be healthy - at any weight. I can agree with her point that if one eats healthy food and exercises (even a little bit) that person will be healthiER than someone else the same weight. However, I think that if one is eating healthily and exercising appropriately, the weight will come off as a result. So, then we're back to weight loss. Yes, a person can be healthy and be overweight but that is not to say that there is not an inextricable link between obesity and being unhealthy. The author seems to discount this out of hand.

The article even goes so far as to quote statistics that show that overweight people live longer than those who are considered to be a "normal" weight.  Statistics may seem convincing, but as someone who does policy analysis and research for a living, I am always skeptical when an article throws out statistics. I would love to know (1) where these statistics come from (2) what was considered "overweight" and what was considered "normal" (3) any mitigating factors in the population (was this a population of people who got regular exercise or was this a population of sedentary people - or was it a mix and what did that look like) and (4) the sample size and makeup (for example, was this a geographically diverse population) ??

The author does make some good points, she emphasizes the importance of focusing on being healthy and changing your body by eating healthy foods and exercising, rather than to obsess about weight. I completely agree that the most important thing is to focus on being healthy, and of course there are shades of grey here.  I think that striving for an unattainable weight goal is harmful - yes. I think that eating too few calories or exercising too much simply to lose weight is unhealthy - of course.  I think that a person can be healthy and still be "overweight" according to the BMI. I think that dieting is not a good thing because it is not a permanent thing. However, I think that this author goes overboard with her conclusion and she may be giving people who really should lose weight an excuse not to. I absolutely do not agree that a person can be healthy AT ANY WEIGHT.  I think that message is potentially harmful, and I can say that speaking from my own experience.

Speaking as someone who was very overweight, I understand how difficult it is to motivate oneself to lose weight, I know I clung to several excuses not to completely change my lifestyle. Yes, of course the author is advocating a healthy lifestyle and in that regard I completely agree. Lifestyle change is the very best way to take off weight and keep it off. No diet will work as well or as permanently as lifestyle change. But as far as her contention that you can be healthy at any weight is concerned, consider that when my husband and I first started attempting to lose weight, we started eating more healthier foods (along with our high calorie diet), and we started walking for exercise, on the weekends. Make no mistake, that was good for us, we were probably healthier than we had been, but we were not doing enough. The weight did not come off, I still had migraines, my cholesterol was off the charts and I still had aches and pains that no 38 year old woman should have.

Today, I am so much healthier than I was 100 pounds ago. My cholesterol is WAY down, in fact all of my "numbers" look fabulous, I have more energy, my migraines are GONE (I was having up to five a month at one point and they were debilitating), I can move better, I can think better, my aches are gone, I sleep better, and yes, I look better and I'm more confident.  It is almost inexplicable just how much better I feel. I feel like I am getting much more out of life. And while maybe I could have been healthy at a higher weight - why should I settle for that? There is a lot to be said about quality of life.

Monday, March 5, 2012


My husband and I went to breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants on Saturday. We have done this on a few occasions since we started our weight loss. We used to go out to eat at least 5 or 6 times a week, now we go out to eat at our favorite places every once in a while, maybe 3 times a month. I do not consider this a "cheat meal" or a "cheat day" because the losing weight required a lifestyle change. Going to a restaurant on occasion is part of our new lifestyle.

I've said before that "you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise" is a myth. It is. However, that is not to say that adding exercise cannot be a beneficial way in which to balance calories on occasion. When I go out to eat with my husband, we plan around it. For example, we plan our meal out on a Friday or a Saturday so that we can balance the extra calorie intake with extra calorie output from our active weekend. We also plan our other meals around eating out. We will make sure to eat a lot of veggies and low calorie meals  for the remainder of the weekend.  That is not to say that we over do it with the exercise or starve ourselves for the rest of the weekend, but rather, we strive for a healthy balance. This has worked to support our weight loss goals for several months now.

Just to put into perspective how many calories are involved with eating out, and why this is not something we can do on a very regular basis, consider that for breakfast, I ordered the same meal that I used to order before my weight loss: a ham and cheese omelet (3 egg), with hash browns, coffee and cream, and a biscuit with butter and honey. I put all of this into my calorie counter and figured out that I ate about 1200 calories for breakfast  - and I only ate HALF (of the omelet, the hash brown, and the butter and honey) of what I used to eat. That is all my calories for the day in ONE meal.

One of the reasons that I do not consider eating out to be a "cheat meal" or a "cheat day" and why I do not consider myself to be on a "diet" - is because that mindset could very easily lead to one of two harmful decisions: (1)Since I had this huge calorie meal, I might as well just have an entire "cheat day" and eat whatever I want for the rest of the day because I blew my diet for the day or (2) Since I had this huge calorie meal, I had better not eat anything else substantial for the rest of the day so that I don't ruin my diet. Viewing this as a lifestyle change in which I need to achieve a healthy balance between diet and exercise helps me to put eating out into perspective. On Saturday, my husband and I had a pretty busy day. We first went swimming for about 1/2 an hour, then we went to breakfast, we went shopping for a couple of hours, then we went home, had lunch, including a good amount of veggies and a frozen (diet) entree, I went to a meeting for a couple hours, then we cleaned for a while, played tennis, had dinner (again, lots of nutritious veggies to fill us up without a lot of calories) at home, then went to a movie with my husband's brothers. Even given all of that activity, I was slightly over my net calories for Saturday. Sunday, however, I had my normal low-calorie breakfast with cereal and fruit, went for a nice walk at Mission Bay (about 3 hours), had a good lunch, and then finished our shopping - walking to the stores rather than driving which gave us another 2 hours of walking. So yesterday, though I took in about 1800 calories, I netted around 850.  When I stepped on the scale this morning, I maintained. I didn't lose, but I will. And I did it by achieving a healthy balance - I did not spend the entire weekend doing a ridiculous amount of strenuous exercise nor did I starve myself, I had a very enjoyable weekend, was never hungry, and, in addition to the great breakfast I enjoyed out with my husband, we went on a beautiful, relaxing walk in the gorgeous San Diego sunshine, had fun swimming and playing tennis, and enjoyed an excellent movie. Balance. :-)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Demise of "Wonder Woman"

This morning I stepped on the scale and saw that I have lost another pound and a half.  That makes over four pounds since I broke through my plateau just a few days ago. Now, clearly that four pounds is not the result solely of my efforts over the past few days - it is the result of the cumulation of work I did over the past few days plus the work I did during the two weeks or so while I was busy kicking the scale every morning at my plateau. That said, I was pretty certain this morning that I was Wonder Woman. After my celebration, I proceeded to get ready for my morning workout.

I decided to try swimming this morning. About 20 years ago (has it really been that long?!) I was a lifeguard and I swam every day. I loved it, but then I went to college and then law school all the while working in offices and, long story short, I have not been swimming regularly for at least 15 years. That said, I was eager to get back into the pool and back into swimming - particularly this morning, since I was feeling like Wonder Woman and was quite certain I was going to go to the gym and swim 300 laps or so without breaking a sweat. Yeah, I swam three laps - yes - that's right "Wonder Woman" swam THREE laps and was so exhausted she nearly drowned. I stood at the side of the pool, cursed my out of shape body, and resolved to swim five more. I did, without need for lifesaving measures or rescue of any kind...barely. Wow.

Now I have another goal in addition to my weight loss goal. I will get back into swimming shape. I may never be as fit as I was when I was a 19-year-old lifeguard, but I will get as close as I can. I love swimming, I will do it well again. I'll be back at the gym pool bright and early on Tuesday morning to swim 10 laps. I'll start from there.