Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winter Excuses

I've always thought that cold weather was the powerful force against weight loss. I mean, it makes sense. We're so often told that our metabolisms shut down during the dark, cold days of winter and go into hibernation mode. That the desire to eat more and pack on/retain fat is "natural." Not surprisingly, S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is the current weight loss fail scapegoat. Less sunlight = less Vitamin D and thus less energy, or so the theory goes. So, trying to stay fit and healthy during the winter is a no-win proposition. Even unnatural. Right?

Uh, no.

We can learn a thing or two from Icelanders. We think winter here (well, at least up North) is bad. But in Iceland, not only is the climate brutal but the country gets, on average, only 4 hours of sunlight in the winter. Relatively speaking, they eat a fairly high caloric diet consisting of fatty lamb, dairy, carbs, fried pancakes and fritter-thingies and lots of sweets. And, of course, fish. Fried, salted, preserved fish. Poultry meat is not a staple (they don't like to eat birds, traditionally), but they wholly welcome eggs into their diets. Yet, Iceland ranks as one of the top healthiest nations in the world. Why is that?

For one, Icelanders do not "shut down" in the winter. They are, for the most part, quite physically active. Even in the dark. They enjoy numerous sports, and are renowned for their great strength.

Perhaps the explanation lies with their badass Viking genes.

Public Domain and Fair Use, so suck it.

Maybe this is explained by generations of evolution where only the strongest and fittest survived. Or perhaps they are onto something that we cannot quite accept: That life goes on even in the most challenging conditions. Rather than succumb to it, we can and should adapt, move on, and make the best of it.

I just watched an Anthony Bourdain "No Reservations" episode where he stayed in Iceland in the dead of winter. One day, he visited a local gym, which was packed with buff-looking men and women who were vigorously engaging various exercise equipment even as icy blackness loomed just beyond the glass walls. Before and after their workouts, they eat large bowls of fatty lamb stew. No protein shakes, oatmeal, cereal or skipping meals.

Physical activity in Iceland is a way of life that is ingrained early on. Icelandic authorities* recommend at least an hour of moderately intensive physical activity at least 5 days per week for children to maintain physical health.** Is that what your child is doing? Is that what YOU are doing?

This kind of calls into question these old notions we have about winter. About how cold weather and lack of sunlight bring us down. As Icelanders have shown, these are no excuses. In fact, they take advantage of the time they have indoors to devote to physical fitness. Sure, they fuel up on necessary carbs, proteins and fats. But they also burn it off.

Why, then, can't we? Are we using "winter" as another excuse?

For me, this winter has been challenging in the sense that I have turned into the biggest freeze crybaby ever. I wrap myself up much like Ralphie's little brother, Randy, even indoors. On the other hand, since I'm cooped up, I've been spending a little more time on the morning workouts. Workouts warm me up, and so I'm not cold anymore. Sure, I get tired, but that's usually after I come home from work. It's a process of whining and then adapting. Since I have more dark time in the morning, I use it to exercise more.

While I may sound pretty self-righteous saying all of this, the fact is that we all have the ability to change and adapt. We shouldn't misinterpret initial, petty negative body signals to mean that we just can't do it. Sure, the darkness is a downer and we feel more tired at certain times. But summer hotness also drains some energy out of us. So do Spring allergies. When will the excuses stop and the will take over? Exercising counteracts a lot of those bad feelings. After a little while of daily, consistent activity, it will be as if weather weren't an issue at all.

Yeah, we definitely could learn a thing or to from those eccentric, but sensible, Bjork-ies.

* Well, U.S. authorities, too, but most of us tend to pooh-pooh them anyway.

**While the study shows that Icelandic children have increased their physical activity over the last ten years, Western couch-potato trends have spread their tendrils into the brain stems of a lot of adolescents, and more physical activity is recommended.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In: 1/27/10 & Shtuff

I was at 143.00 again yesterday. Fine by me. The scale today actually has me at a lot less, but whatever. I'm getting used to the fact that there isn't going to be much excitement with the scale anymore, unless I purposefully start gaining weight or come down with a terminal illness. Instead, the focus has been on toning and shit.

Didn't get a chance to post the weigh-in earlier because a.) I found out my sister is pregnant. And probably twins. Her first daughter just turned 18. So she has another 20 years of parenting, squared. Yowza! b.) I had to go along with Bob to watch a screening of the new flick When In Rome yesterday. It was horrible and put me in a downer mood the rest of the evening.

I blew my right knee. Again. I put Jillian back in her cage for now and have gone back to my usual 60 minutes of recumbent biking and 30 minutes or so of fun with resistance bands. I still do her knee-friendly-ish core circuits, tho. They rock.

So the H1N1 vaccine (or the "hynie shot" as Bobzilla calls it) is now available at our local pharmacy. We were going to get them yesterday but I wussed out. Even a one in a million chance of a horrible reaction is enough to set off my anxiety alarms. We'll try again today. If I don't post something within the next 7 days, that means I'm probably dead.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Best Weight Loss Tool Evah!

If you find yourself seduced by the next hamburger ad or sexy-looking frozen pizza box at the grocery, go to this website first:

Food In Real Life

It will give you the bitch slap of reality needed to pull you back from the edge.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Year in Review

It just dawned on me that I've been blogging for a year now. Officially, the blogiversary was Jan. 8th. Funny how I just wrote earlier this week about letting go of the past to move forward, but then I'm reminded of a poignant line from one of my favorite films, Magnolia: "We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us." This part of backwards reflection is acceptable, though, because it represents progress and not regression. So, I'm all for it. Another exception to the exception. Or whatever.

When I started the blog, I weighed 175 lbs. Prior to that, I was "on my own" with the weight loss and did quite well, losing about 75 lbs. before I hit a plateau in early November 2008. I figured blogging would give me the boost I needed to reignite the engine. And it seemed to do the trick. Over the last year, I lost 32 pounds. I went from a size 16/14 to a size 8 (sadly, these prized size 8 Calvins I'm sitting in are now loose in the ass and thighs and will need to be retired within the month.).

Here is an illustrated review, because one can never get enough mileage out of an outfit as tragic as this:

The gut that lingered in early '09 is now gone. The back boobs are ghosts. As is the sagging jaw line. My arms, chest, back, shoulders and thighs are toned and strong. On the down side, I went from a D cup to a barely-filled B cup. So long, boobies. But, the posture is pretty solid...probably because I ain't top heavy no mo'.

This past year has been a hybrid of weight loss and maintenance rehearsal. I'd lose, then gain, maintain, lose again and maintain. I get it. I more than get it. I embrace the way I eat, and can't imagine a day that goes by without exercising. I have even worked out when sick. It is a part of normal life. I like this new normal.

Here is a list of what has happened over the past year:


1. I took up running this year. On purpose. For the first time ever. I loved it. Then my knees said, "F**k you." I still gaze longingly at the joggers who brave even bad weather to get a good run in. I don't get pissed when they're in the street. I understand them now.

2. Related to #1, I got athletic shoes. On purpose and not because high school gym class required them. Though butt ugly, they were the single best purchase I ever made. I still wear them when I do my Jillian workouts and they serve me well on the fitness trail dates with Bobzilla.

3. I manage stress much, much better. It was not uncommon for me to have a meltdown during a stressful day at the office, dealing with family, etc. That has changed dramatically over the past year. I have learned to care less, and it's become ingrained. I talk myself out of blowing up and certain things that used to get under my skin (bad drivers, idiocacy, etc.) just don't bother me so much any more. While this may be related to my commitment to stop caring, I'm pretty sure the exercise and healthy eating has a major role in this. Even Pat Robertson's insane rant about Haiti has barely raised my pulse. I'm sure I'm passionate about something...oh God, I hope I'm not dead.

4. Showing skin. I tried on, bought, and wore a two piece swimming suit this summer. Collectively, I have never done all three things before. My boudoir wardrobe has quadrupled. I also did a fetish photo shoot and love the pictures. No, they won't be posted here. Let's just say I look pretty hot in black vinyl and rubber.

5. I am a morning person. *gasp* I am in bed at a decent hour. Usually no later than 10:00 p.m. Then I'm up no later than 6:00 a.m. for the morning workouts. Before this, I used to crash at late hours, usually after 1:00 in the morning.

6. Workout videos. Never thought I'd do them. In my mind, workout videos were made to be laughed at, not useful. Jillian proved me wrong.

7. Organic, free-range eating. Our diet is now almost all organic and free range. I make most of my lunches. I don't eat meat usually when we go out. All produce, juices, coffee/tea and grains in our kitchen are organic. Our meat and dairy come from ethical, humane sources, and absolutely no hormones, GMO's, or antibiotic-laden foods. Do they help you lose weight? Not by themselves. But once you become aware of what you put in your body, it is a natural extension to eliminate ALL crap. I'd rather spend a few extra cents on organic food than spend the money on a restaurant meal.

8. It's ok to be narcissistic. I had a hard time blogging at first. I don't like talking about myself. I am self-conscious about the use of too many "I's" in a sentence, written or spoken. I got over myself and accepted that blogging is about me. And that's ok.


1. Happiness has nothing to do with weight. When I created the above photo montage, I was struck by an implicit message I might be sending, that the person I was in July 2007 was someone to be abhorred or pitied. That is totally wrong. When that picture was taken on that rad summer morning, I was happy. Notice the blush on my cheeks. I was getting ready to spend the day with my best friend and couldn't wait to get going. I was not in a cesspool of misery when I was obese. I enjoyed life then, and I enjoy life now. Losing weight is not a talisman. Sure, I feel healthier and happier, but I also didn't put all my emotional eggs in the weight loss basket. You find and take pleasure where you find it. It is not something that should be denied until you reach an ideal physical condition. I think this is why I've been able to stick with this slow weight loss process, which has lasted over three years. You don't stop living, loving and laughing just because you're fat. Losing weight won't cure problems.

2. There is no "done." Eating healthy and exercise is not a temporary thing. I have accepted that I will--and must--workout almost every day, for the rest of my life. I can't go back to eating at the deli downstairs in my office building. Taco Bell is garbage and always will be. That's it.

3. 99% is mental. No more dwelling on past pain and issues. No more yearning to eat bad things I used to think would give me pleasure. On the flip side, there is no over-thinking to this. Talking too much about losing weight will just bring you down. It's like verbal padding or filler. At some point, you have to get up from the computer and just exercise, just live.

4. Oil and fats are ok. Some olive oil and fats are good for, and necessary to, clean and healthy eating. For some reason, this was a hard one for me to overcome, but I've finally leveled out and have reached an amicable living situation with grease.

5. The scale is not the final arbiter of progress. The scale is not God. Do not revolve your life around its judgment, and certainly do not assess the status of your health by that fickle fiend. Time and commitment will see you through. I regret not taking measurements, because I am shrinking more than the scale says I am losing over the last 3 months. Plus, endurance, tone and overall emotional and mental well-being cannot be measured by the scale. Nor can trying on jeans at the store.


1. No deprivation. Chocolate, ice cream and cheese are not no-no's. Wine is chilling for my consumption as I write this. I had french fries earlier this week. We will be eating at Melt Bar 'n Grilled tomorrow for brunch.

2. Pets are not very bright. Despite repeated injuries, my cat still sticks his face in the bike pedal as I'm spinning. He must like it.

3. Keep the tata's restrained. Don't ever, ever try to work out without proper restraint. I suppose the same thing applies to men's goods. I wouldn't know. Thank God I avoid the gym.

4. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise, even daily, is not enough for long-term weight loss. Suck it up.

5. Jillian had a prior career operating a BDSM dungeon. Perhaps even a chain of them.

Ok! Off to pour myself an anniversary toast. Here's hoping this weekend's indulgences don't bite me in the ass!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In: 1/20/10 and Don't Look Back

First, the minor stuff. I'm at 143.00 today. Deja vu. I know that number. I think I met it at a pre-holiday party last month.

Been feeling blog-fatigued lately. Haven't read or commented much lately. Just zoning out here. Mostly due to an assload of work that has formed what will probably be a permanent "11" between my brows.

On the workout front, I'm back up to Level Three with Mistress Jillian. I have a few especially tasty, profane words in mind that would aptly describe the "traveling pushups" and the uber-painful circuit of mountain climbers immediately followed by bouncing sumo squats. Now, while the workout is difficult, I still don't feel I'm getting enough cardio in. So I hop on the bike for 30 minutes, which is a breeze compared to the aforementioned torture.

Last week, I met with a friend at my office, and we discussed the cognitive behavior therapy class she's taking. Apparently, this type of treatment--which concentrates on helping to mold effective, goal-oriented behavior rather than analyzing the past--is extremely successful in treating obesity and even drug and alcohol addiction. As she was describing this form of therapy, a spark went off in my head. I think I know now why this weight loss thing has been successful and relatively easy:


I'm no weight loss virgin. I have started and failed many times. Common with all those prior attempts was my tendency to think in terms of the past. This could be the immediate past or long-term life history. I dwelled on my bad family life growing up and the bad eating habits formed and reinforced decades before. I was fixated on my old life. For example, I would focus on the many types of crappy food I used to turn to for comfort. I even tied in what is arguably the worst childhood ever with my obesity. I was fixated on finding, analyzing and revisiting the how's and why's of my fat ass.

Did that help me? Uh, no. If anything, this type of thinking sabotaged my weight loss efforts because I (unintentionally) continued to identify my present self with my past self. This backwards thinking made me miserable and my attempts at weight loss impossible because I perceived attempts at "dieting" and exercise to be more difficult than they were or should have been. I would overreact to feelings of hunger or any desire, really, because I wanted immediate gratification. I was greedy and impulsive. When I fell off the wagon, it wasn't just a temporary thing--it turned into a long-term relapse. I made it unnecessarily difficult to get back on track because my response to a temporary fail was to panic, overanalyze what I did wrong and re-familiarize myself with the "old" me. Thinking about the old ways was all that I knew, it was familiar to me and certainly easier to deal with than making changes. If I screwed up once, it snowballed because, hey, why bother if the cat's already out of the bag? Doing new things, of course, is uncomfortable. It's hard to visualize, construct and nurture a goal when you're distracted by continuously looking backward.

This time around was different, though. I couldn't put it into words until after my friend session last week. But now I understand. I've been goal-oriented. I don't know if I hit my head in my sleep or what, but this time around I focused on what I wanted to happen. While the weight loss was slow, every week I lost a pound meant that I was no longer carrying that weight from my past. Once I accepted that this change is permanent, it became easier, over time, to think about where I am going as opposed to where I've been. I guess that's why I don't blog much about my former bad habits. I don't agonize about physical and emotional abuse in the family, or the painful losses. I don't describe in salacious detail the types of crappy food I used to put in my mouth. I don't want to talk about it anymore. When I get frisky with food (don't call it a relapse!) nowadays, I don't talk about or dwell on it either. What is the point?

I suppose this is why the Beck diet books are so popular. I avoided looking into that program because it seemed to "cultish" to me. I'm not a fan of "movements." While I'm not ready to drink the Beck kool-aid yet, this area is more than just a little intriguing.


Now hold up. I'm not a past-hatah. Actually, I've been finding renewed pleasure in old things lately, such as:

1. Vintage Clothing. What finally convinced me that current fashion designers are playing a joke on consumers is when I went shopping for sweaters and found that most of them were short-sleeved or sleeveless. Sleeveless sweaters? I had it, and returned to my roots: thrift stores! I scored some incredible finds, mostly from the 60's. Most of the vintage clothes are made of higher-quality fabric, and are tailored better to bring out a flattering shape. And the crown jewel was a woman's pimp blouse. Trust me, it works.

2. Peanut Butter and Jelly. My mother-in-law gave me organic, natural peanut butter and jelly for Christmas. I swear, it tastes better than what I remember. Even on carrots.

But there is an exception to the exception, as I discovered during my sickness:

Footloose is bad. Real bad. Especially the soundtrack. How did Loggins pull it off?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oxygen is the best thing ever.

What was seemingly a harmless cold turned out to be one of the nastiest respiratory viruses to plague the household. Almost a week to the day after Bob got sick, I got hit. It started off innocently enough, but by Christmas Day, I was curled up in the corner leaking essential fluids from my throbbing head while the rest of the family pretended death wasn't creeping their way across the room:

A few days after that, and things got worse as the bug hit my chest. Breathing became the most important activity. I had to bid adieu to Jillian and attempted "gentle" workouts on the bike, but when breathing was too difficult, workouts were shelved altogether. I expelled copious amounts of unspeakable things from my lungs as I sat around feeling sorry for myself, watching five seasons of The Office on streaming Netflix and playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook as the dog whimpered at my feet over the lack of attention. Did I feed her? I can't remember.

Sleep was difficult due to the coughing fits. Prescription cough medicine helped, but it turned me into a dopey night zombie and plugged me up.

There were no shameless bouts of bingeing and celebration. My biggest treats over the two-week holiday marathon were a half dozen or so amaretti cookies, a glass of eggnog, Lemonheads and two pots of home made chicken soup (per Alton Brown's recipe, highly recommended). And some cheese. New Year's was dry...the first dry New Year's since '88, I think.

Last week, I started getting better and returned to the tough-love arms of Jillian, but I had to start back at Level 1. That was rough and I went back to the bike.

This week, I'm feeling near-normal and the coughing has subsided. Breathing capacity is at about 90%. So, yay.

The scale stayed steady at 143 during Christmas and New Years, then up to 147 (!) late last week, then down to 144.6 today. I can't really put much stock in those numbers, though, given the circumstances. Even if I were at a loss, it's not like a real victory anyway. The "official" weigh-ins will resume next week, assuming I successfully dodge future plague bullets.

On the plus side, Bob got me some sweet resistance bands for Christmas, which I have been using and LOVING. There is an element of danger to using them. I can't help but think one of the plastic clasps will break, causing a band to whip across my face and take out an eye. And a tooth or two. So, it makes my workouts that much more badass. Rawrrrr!

I've been lurking and reading many blogs, but haven't the time or energy to catch up in one fell swoop. I am energized by so many bloggers' new-found commitment to a fit and healthy New Year, as well as others' continued success (and reasonable bitchiness!), and look forward to following their progress.

And the new season of Biggest Loser has started already. Dammit.