Thursday, December 27, 2012

Moving through Life

I read an article by Denise Austin the other day called Keep Moving.  It is a great article and I would highly recommend it. Actually, I have written about the issue the article addresses before, but I think that she describes what I have tried to convey perfectly. She advises her readers to "Try to think of exercise as movement rather than a strict regimen."  She is exactly right. Just move, that alone will make an enormous difference in your life. 

Before my husband and I decided to lose weight and ultimately changed our lifestyle dramatically, I would have balked at the idea of "changing my lifestyle." I quite liked my sedentary ways. Loved to go out to eat, go to the movies, go to the theatre, cuddle on the couch and watch TV with my husband all night. I really liked my lifestyle, and the thought of giving it up was just depressing to me. I was having fun. I was quite content with everything but my weight. That said, I was wrong. I love my new, more active lifestyle and it has the side effect of making me feel better - physically and emotionally - my mood is better, just generally speaking. I am not a mental health expert, but I really do believe that living a more healthy lifestyle is good for your mental health as well as your physical well-being.


When my husband and I started this diet and exercise thing, we had to make an effort to get out and exercise, we had to build it into our day and consciously make sure that we were moving. Now, it's almost second nature, the things we love to do require us to move. It's the difference between observing life and living it. Before, we would watch T.V. and movies and go to the theatre and sit through life and let other people entertain us. It was and still is, on occasion, enjoyable. Now, we do it on occasion, not every day - we wouldn't want to. It is far more enjoyable to live actively, and experience things, which requires movement - than to watch other people doing them. It is far more fun to be a participant in life than an observer. This is what moving does. So, it is not a regimen for me or for my husband, it is a part of our lifestyle, it is fun - it's how we experience life now. I wouldn't trade it or go back for anything. 

Anyone can do this. Try new activities, you will find something you like. Then keep adding to it...and, as the article says, Keep moving. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Balancing the Checkbook

I always get carried away over the Holidays. I have a huge extended family including lots of wonderful, adorable nieces and nephews, so Christmas gift buying and travel can be expensive.  Every year, I have to make a budget and stick with it over the Holidays or I will be paying for it until July.

The same concept holds with how I eat. I have to budget, just like with my finances. And just like with my bank account, if I overdo it, the repercussions will last for quite a while. Budgeting my diet is something that I do all the time.

I have written before about how I track everything that I eat, and I am careful to track EVERYTHING and to be honest about it. Before I started this habit (and even as I attempted to get the hang of it), it seemed like a huge monotonous pain in the behind.  Now that I am in the habit, I cannot imagine being successful without doing it. Put into perspective, it makes sense, I would not think of going out and spending money without tracking how much I was spending. I need to balance my checkbook. If I don't track how much money is going into my bank account and how much is coming out, I will most certainly be in for a very unpleasant surprise (very likely when I 'm at the front of a line at a busy store with my luck). My bank account always empties much faster than I would prefer.  I learned at a very young age that I absolutely cannot track these things in my head because I tend think wishfully about how much money is actually in my bank account. Small, forgettable purchases add up, and pretty soon I'd be running on empty without realizing it.  Thus, attempting to successfully do my finances without writing everything down would be ludicrous and it would end badly. Obviously. So, why would I treat budgeting my diet any differently? It's just as simple (and, at times, as frustrating) as budgeting my money. It has to be done, even when it isn't pretty and even when it isn't fun. If I do not track what I eat, small, forgettable snacks can add up without my realizing it and lead to unpleasant surprises on the scale or when I try to button my pants.

Each day, I wake up with a specific, set number of calories "in the bank," I generally know what I am going to eat, and how many calories I am going to "spend" on my regular meals and snacks throughout the day. These are the bills I have to pay to be healthy. I have to spend calories on fruit and veggies and on protein and carbs in the appropriate proportions.  I can start my calorie budget, just like I do on a regular basis with my paycheck when I calculate my bills, with the calories I know that I need to "spend" on meals and snacks. Then I have an idea where I stand. I'm usually "overdrawn" by a few calories - generally this is not a huge deal. My calorie budget is under what I need to maintain because I'm still trying to lose a little weight, so a couple hundred calories once in a while isn't the end of the world.  That said, I try to exercise every day.  My calorie budget usually looks fine once I put the calories I plan to "earn" through my daily planned exercise into my calculation.  I usually have a few calories to spare after all of this. This way I know how calories I have left over to "spend" throughout the day on, for example, one of the cookies at the office or a piece of cake for desert. When it comes to these extras and treats, I will only eat what I love. If I am going to treat myself and "spend" the calories, it better be beyond good. No more fast food, no more mediocre deserts or ordinary candies. If I am going to spend calories, it needs to be extraordinary... I need to love it or I'll leave it.

Calorie budgeting also works if I am going to have a huge Holiday meal or if I know that I am going out to a restaurant. I just go with lower calorie meals and make sure that my snacks are lower calorie fruit and veggies on the day I'm going to the restaurant, or the week before I know I'm going to have a high calorie day or two due to the holidays or another event. I'll also make sure that I get a couple of heavy exercise days in to bank calories around these days.  This is the same kind of thing I do with my finances before the Holidays or before I go on vacation, I save and plan for the financing.

"Balancing the checkbook" with my diet took some getting used to, but it has worked well for me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Rain on My Parade

First, let me say that swing dancing class with my hubby last night was AWESOME. I had a great time with my husband and my sister and brother-in-law. Even if you think you are the most uncoordinated person in the world (well, the second-most-uncoordinated person in the world, I am the most uncoordinated, believe me) - Anyway, even if you think you are uncoordinated and have no rhythm, this is a ton of fun and it is a huge stress reliever. Loved it. Highly recommend it. It is a fun, fantastic way to get exercise.

Today, though, I'm a bit stressed because of the rain. Well, the rain, my cozy bed, and the Holidays. This unfortunate confluence of timing, weather, and exhaustion led me to sleep way too long this morning and miss my "only opportunity" to work out today. It is raining, hard, today and I got to bed late last night, so I did not go to the gym to do my cycling class, and I did not drag my behind out of bed on time to do a DVD / Tae Boe work-out this morning either. The pouring rain coupled with the fact that I am organizing a Holiday party tonight means no lunch walk. I am attending said Holiday festivities tonight, and will likely not get home until after 9pm. WHEN do I get some exercise? I'm a little stressed.

All that said, I have come up with a plan that I think will work. My plan is to do dance practice with my husband after we get home tonight. We can practice the swing dancing moves we learned last night for about 1/2 an hour. It's not going to be a huge exercise day, but at least it is something.

This brings me to an issue I think many people run into, is a tiny bit of exercise even worth it? Yes. Yes it is. Many people feel like there is not enough time in the day to exercise. I think this is because often, exercise is viewed as an activity that must be done to the point where one is a breathless, sweaty mess before it will be effective.  I have a different opinion here. A couple 15 minute walks every day, for example, will certainly not lead to sudden and dramatic weight loss but the benefits certainly make it worthwhile, even if it's not the vigorous workout many people envision when they think about exercise. For me, a short walk in the middle of the day will clear my head, help me to feel more alert and awake, and lift my mood. The same is true for half an hour of dance practice with my husband - it will help to relieve stress at the end of the day, I will sleep better, and hey- I burned a couple of calories. So there is always time in the day to get exercise, just move a little more, even if it is only taking one extra lap up and down the three flights of steps at work or taking a 15 minute walk.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Activities that won't add calories

Happy Holidays!

The Holidays are always challenging diet-wise. In addition to staying vigilant so that stray chocolates and other goodies don't fly unexpectedly into your mouth, there is the whole exercise thing. It's cold outside (well, chilly in San Diego anyway), and who wants to drag themselves out of their warm house to exercise? Seriously. Ba-humbug! To help with that, here are a couple of fun ideas about how to get exercise or physical activity in over the Holidays:
  1. Go for a walk to see the Christmas lights in your neighborhood or in others around your area. Here is a listing of San Diego's Christmas light displays (warning, if one address is listed, that means it's just one house - nice to drive by, but not really a walk) Walking through these will take a matter of minutes to an hour or so depending upon the display you go see. One word of caution, some home owners have a generous spread of goodies out to go along with their beautiful lights, just ignore the goodies, enjoy the lights and have a nice walk. If you must have hot cocoa to go along with your walk, Swiss miss makes a good diet version that is only 25 calories.
  2. Learn to dance! My husband and I have been learning ballroom dancing, and this Holiday season we are putting it to use as we are going to a couple of dinner / dance Christmas parties. It is great fun and it is great exercise. And it is a fun excuse to buy cute new clothes for your smaller self :-)
    Wednesday, we are starting to learn Swing, and I am looking forward to it!
    Here is where we Ballroom Dance. And here is where we are going to learn Swing
Try these, and enjoy the Holidays! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Something New

So I have resolved to try a spinning / cycling class tomorrow morning. There is one at the gym that is a 10 minute drive from my house from 6:30-7:25am. I think I can make it. I need a Tuesday / Thursday morning activity. I do water aerobics on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - and it is a habit that is well-established after a year. I really like it, it wakes me up and it gives me energy for the day. Plus, I love the water, I love swimming-type activities. And an added bonus is that it is first thing in the morning, so if my day goes sideways and I miss my afternoon workout, I've already done something or, if I have a busy day as is the case tomorrow, I have my exercise done and out of the way first thing in the morning, no worrying about how I'm possibly going to squeeze it in.

This may sound like a lot of exercise, maybe it is and maybe it is unsustainable. I'm liking it now and it is working for me now. The thing is that I like to go to my evening work-outs, I'm at a point where I don't just do them because I need the exercise, I do them because I like them. I love Zumba, and I love to spend time working out at the gym with my hubby.

I have been looking for a Tues/Thursday morning activity for a while, and I can't seem to find anything that sticks. I have to like what I'm doing, or I will not get out of my comfy bed to go do it...once the routine is established, it gets easier, but I have to at least enjoy it at first. To be honest, spinning doesn't look like a great deal of fun, but it can't hurt to try. I've tried Nia, which got boring after a while, and the instructor was, frankly, kind of flaky in that she wouldn't show up to class or she'd be late all the time. Not okay. So, that isn't to discourage people from trying Nia, it is a perfectly lovely exercise and some may love it - it just wasn't for me. Then, I tried a beginner's Yoga class. I loved it. Unfortunately, I think I was one of only like 3 people who loved it because attendance dwindled and it was cancelled. Boo! So, now I'm going to try this cycling thing and see if it works. I'll try to have an update on the success and / or failure of this latest venture in a week or so.  Meanwhile, I need to find another Yoga class somewhere in my life because I quite liked it, and I think I need some relaxing / stretching in my life - all I really do is cardio. I think I need some variety.