Challenge Update: Diamonds Out, Trekking Supplies & Workout Leggings In!

Despite my inner child’s excitement over the potential of owning another pretty, shiny thing if I hit my weight loss goal by April 3rd, I think I’m going to have to change my direction re: prizes for meeting my goals. I know, I know, it’s a disappointment – so much less sparkle involved in hiking gear than diamond jewelry!

But seriously, I’ve been thinking about it over the last few days, and it would be a much better use of funds if I focused on getting my supplies for the Camino, instead of a new belly button ring. I’ll have to buy things (a pack, hiking poles, new socks, and all manner of other fun odds and ends) to go on pilgrimage, anyway. It makes more sense to reward my good behavior with supplies that will only encourage more good behavior. Also, it would be a lot less wasteful of me. Maybe I can save the bling for my next milestone.

No matter what, I’m also thinking that some new fun workout clothes are in order, whether or not I hit that 170 lb mark. Some of the ladies at my gym have been wearing these amazing workout leggings, and I’ve been coveting pretty hard for the last month or so (Sad, right? Totally going to hell over spandex. Oh well.). It wasn’t that long ago that it was hard for me to even find decent workout pants and leggings, and back then it seemed they were all gray and black and uber boring. Now I’m seeing awesome ones in a plethora of colorful patterns. I dig loud, crazy designs, so incorporating them into my gym life is definitely a big plus. Something like these…

Onzie Low Rise Leggings

Onzie Low Rise Leggings in “Copa Cabana”, at Nordstrom. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Capri Leggings in Prism Print from Bloomingdales. (Click through image to visit site.)

Onzie Capri Leggings in Prism Print from Bloomingdales. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Track Leggings in Teal Chevron at YogaOutlet.com. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Track Leggings in Teal Chevron at YogaOutlet.com. (Click image to visit site.)

What do you think? Do you dig going loud and crazy at the gym? If you’re a lady (or happen to know a lot about women’s gym clothes), any good workout leggings to suggest?

Starting My Own Transformation Challenge

This isn’t so much a post as a reminder to myself. If you’ve been reading along since the new year, you’ll know that from January 5th to February 13th, I was doing a transformation challenge with my gym, Iron Tribe. Long story short, I didn’t win the challenge (bummer – would have really liked that top prize!), but I’m not that upset about it. One of my nicest classmates lost over 5% body fat and ended up with the top prize. Since he has a family, that gift certificate to Whole Foods is really going to come in handy.

As for me, I ended up losing about 13 pounds and 3% body fat, and getting a lot stronger. Plus, the gym does two challenges a year, so there’s always next time. But since I don’t want to wait 6 months to work on seriously getting into shape, I figured that maybe I should take the format of the official challenge and create my own challenge to keep me motivated over the next 40 day cycle.

My actions: work out 5 times a week at Iron Tribe, walk at least 15,000 steps a day, stick to my paleo diet, take PAGG and vitamins/supplements, avoid alcohol and pointless snacking, and keep a detailed daily nutrition/exercise diary.

My goal: Get to 170 pounds, and cut body fat by another 3%

My incentive: A diamond belly button ring that I’ve been eyeing for years now. If I get to 170, I get the ring. If I don’t get to 170, I don’t. If I somehow magically get to the 160’s, I’ll reconsider my decision – maybe I deserve something even nicer, who knows :-D

Starting point(s): The challenge started on Monday, February 23rd, and will last until Friday, April 3rd. My weight has been fluctuating a little bit based on eating everything that came within arm’s reach all last week, but as of today I was 185.7 pounds. I’m thinking I’ll be back to around 182 or so by the weekend, putting me back to where I ended up with the last challenge. Then it’s just staying focused from there!

Belly Button Lent

Can you tell that I like horrible jokes? I’m as corny as they come. Last night, in fact, I spent the better part of an hour reading a website for The Potato Rock Museum, an online collection of rocks that look like potatoes, with arguments that these rocks might actually have been potatoes at some point. I laughed over some of the images until there were tears streaming down my face. I mean, seriously – you can’t possibly tell me this isn’t one of the most amusing things you’ve seen today:

Yum, what a lovely baked potato! Wait a minute, that’s no spud – that’s a ROCK!

Whatever, I thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, I’m just writing this little post because it’s the first day of Lent, and I felt like it deserved some attention. Not for any religious reasons, mind you. I’m decidedly not Catholic. I’m not even celebrating Lent in any official capacity. But since the first day of Lent happens to mark the end of the Mardi Gras season, it’s a useful demarcation for me in other ways.

I didn’t get too crazy over Mardi Gras. In all, I had eight drinks over two weeks. I ate a tiny sliver of king cake, a huge BLT poboy, a slice of pizza, and a decent enough helping of fried foods and snacky things, as is my custom during the season of debauchery. Overall, though, this was a very tame holiday season for me. I didn’t even leave the house on Fat Tuesday. I’m getting old, and as it turns out, I really enjoy being sober and healthy.

That being the case, I’ve decided that this Lent I’m going to go for it. No drinking for the next 40 days. I’m also going back to eating paleo, and even though the Iron Tribe transformation challenge is over, I’m going to keep working out four to five days a week. Right now my loose goal is to get to around 170 lbs by Easter.

Now here’s the kicker. If I can get to my next goal mark of 170 within the next 40 days, I’m going to buy myself the present I’ve wanted for a few years now. I’ve had my eye on this ridiculously trashy diamond belly button ring.

white-gold-body-jewelry-with-pave-54

I’m currently wearing a sterling silver one with swarovski crystals, but if I can keep up the good work, I think I deserve to get something lovely and silly for my good work – a genuine white gold and diamond ring for my naval, perfect for accenting my prized lint collection.

Too bad I can’t find one with potato rock accents…

The First 10 Pounds

Road Map to Weight Loss

If by “diet” you mean “paleo”, then yes, we’re in business.

Today I hit 184.8 lbs. A couple of years ago, had you told me that I’d be this heavy, I would have been appalled. But today, I’m happy. I’m happy because 19 days ago I was 194.8 lbs., and yesterday I fit into jeans I haven’t been able to wear for a few months. Ten easy pounds down – 40 much harder ones to go.

First off, let’s just get this out of the way – weight loss is not magical. Weight loss is not something to be done quickly. It’s totally possible to take diet pills and starve yourself and get skinny (I know this because I’ve done it in the past), but that shit catches up with you in the end (see 1st paragraph). The full extent of my “magic formula” thus far is lifting weights and doing high intensity interval training five days a week, 45 minutes a day, walking between 5 and 8 miles a day, eating paleo, staying hydrated (aiming for my body weight in oz. of water), taking fish oil and PAGG supplements, and keeping track of everything in a food/exercise journal.

All through high school, I was 135 lbs. I ran track and ate whatever I wanted, and I had a decent enough figure. Then I went to college, in the first semester I gained 20 lbs. from sleeping in and eating as much food as a non-body-conscious 18 year old is bound to do on an unlimited meal plan. A few people told me that the weight looked good on me, and rather than take a look and decide for myself, I decided that sounded OK and just went with it. I remained at 155 lbs. throughout college and into my early 20’s, when Hurricane Katrina disrupted my life. For about 5 months after Katrina, I was too broke to eat properly, and I dropped back down to 135 again (still no exercise, just no food). Then I got back to New Orleans and gradually started gaining the weight back, plateauing at 155 until 2007, when I went through a particularly stressful period and went up to around 165. I moved to Chicago, started going to the gym a couple of hours a day, training for a marathon, and doing Bikram yoga, and quickly dropped back down to 145 again, at one point getting as low as 138 while doing a raw cleanse. When I got back to New Orleans again in 2011, I slowly started putting on more weight, passed my normal plateau point of 155, and just kept going until now.

Every single one of the drastic losses have happened as a result of either crazy exercise – hours and hours per day – and/or crazy food restrictions. None of them has been sustainable, or in the least enjoyable. Every time I’ve dieted, I’ve spent pretty much every waking hour craving whatever it was that I wasn’t supposed to be eating (and those ingredients have varied wildly, as I flitted from diet to diet). The exercise has me completely worn out all day. I’m irritable, and frequently experience dizzy spells throughout the day.

So what’s the difference now?

First off, I’ve decided that this is it. This is the heaviest I will ever be, and come hell or high water, I’m going to make the changes that are necessary to get healthy and stay that way. I’m also 19 days into a 40 day challenge period at my gym, Iron Tribe, where I’ve been given the goal of staying as paleo as possible, working out at least 5 times per week, and staying physically active throughout the rest of my day. Not only am I not craving anything (except for brownies, which I’m getting ready to fix tomorrow with this stellar paleo brownie recipe I just found tonight), I’m not feeling tired, sick, or dizzy. I feel HEALTHY. Sturdy. Capable of more if I want to push the limits. Excited to continue to push those limits after this 40 days is up. For the first time in my memory, I feel like I’m getting this weight loss thing right. And it feels so good.

So yeah, I’m still a good 40 lbs. over where I’d like to be, but I have faith that I’m going to get there. The first ten pounds are out of the way, and the rest are going to take considerably longer than 19 days to disappear. But I know that it took me years to put on this weight, and with some faith, I’ll excel in shedding it again. For good this time.

One other thing that I’m really excited about is that I haven’t had a drink in 19 days. During the last year or so of my old relationship, I was drinking a few glasses of wine most days, and sometimes more. In retrospect, I realize that this was extremely unhealthy, physically and emotionally, since I was doing it to make my life bearable. Even after moving into my own place, and transitioning into a much more healthy relationship with my current beau, I was still going out and having a few drinks a couple of days a week. I wasn’t seeing not drinking as an option (as many people here in New Orleans don’t), and to be honest, I hate social engagements when I’m sober. In general, I just don’t like being in big groups of people, or going out to loud, crowded bars or concerts. I’d much rather stay home or hang out with a few people at a time. I was drinking to make talking to people bearable, but in the end, I was experiencing many more negative side effects than positive. Mornings after were never pleasant, and my depression definitely sunk its claws in more on days after I’d had a few drinks.

It was such a relief to have this challenge pop up and, well, challenge me to give up drinking and see how I’d feel without it. I’ve cut down on going out, that’s for sure, so I’m nowhere near as social as I was trying to be. But overall, I don’t care. I don’t miss being out at all, and if knocking booze out of the picture means that I’ll be less sad and start to lose some weight, I call it a fair trade. Even though I’m not addicted to alcohol in a dire sense, I’m glad to be able to address my need to dull the pain of social interaction with substances (including scarfing down bar food to avoid talking). Whether that means I’ll be losing friends in the end still remains to be seen, but overall, everyone’s been really supportive so far.

I could just keep writing on my feelings about this drastic change. Like how excited I am to eat bacon every morning, or how weird and amazing it is to walk past the cheese aisle and not fall to my knees (mentally, at least) with the overwhelming need for a wedge of brie. But it’s time for one of the most important parts of keeping my body healthy – sleep. A glorious 8 hours of it. All mine. Damn, I’m digging being me right now.

Beautiful Is

Helen-Keller-quotes-about-beauty

It’s funny the things that we grow up learning not to say. When I was a little girl, my mother would have a fit whenever my father sometimes uttered “shit” or “damn” by accident. She wanted me to grow up to be a lady, and ladies never use what people in my neck of the woods call “cuss words”. In the end, her plan backfired. Every time she shushed my father’s errant cusses, it only served to make me more excited about the day I’d finally be able to pepper my own conversations with those juicy and forbidden verbal fruits. I actually added a few words in, just for good measure. Yes, Mum, I talk like a sailor when I’m not around you. Sorry about that.

The failure with cussing aside, sometimes her lessons worked. There were other things that I was instructed to avoid saying, things that still very rarely cross my lips. Two words that almost never see the light of day in my household are “ugly” and “stupid”. Even writing them feels unfair, crass, cruel. I mean, sure, every now and then I’ll describe an inanimate object as ugly, or an action as stupid, but when it comes down to it, I’d still rather use other words if possible. I don’t even like it when people talk about having an “ugly Christmas sweater”. It makes me feel sorry for the poor sweater. Guess that means I was programmed well.

That being the case, I’d especially never use either word to describe a person. But even though “ugly” is something I’d never call myself, neither is “beautiful”. Why is that?

Today’s prompt (Day 13) in Beautiful You is to talk about what the word “beautiful” means to us, and consider what it is that makes us use the word to describe other people. Maybe through exploring how we feel about beauty, we can be one step closer to understanding that we might just fit into our own parameters, and be beautiful, too.

To me, the most beautiful people I’ve met are those who shine from within. I’m picturing a handful of truly beautiful folks right now, and comparing them with each other in my mind. Each is kind, and would never be cruel intentionally. Each is willing to listen. Each is willing to help. Each is quick with a smile, and bounces back easily from adversity. Whether or not they believe in a higher power, they’ve each seemed to be a product of fate, as far as I was concerned. Each of the most beautiful lights in my life has appeared just when I needed them most, and imparted some kind of lesson to me. None of them are conventionally physically beautiful, but their attitudes and behavior make that kind of thing unnecessary. The light within gives them that kind of glow from which no sensible person can turn away.

I can only hope to be as beautiful as that one day. Until now, it’s never occurred to me that I was hoping for that kind of thing, but I’d love to be someone’s beacon one day. If it happens, it happens. But if not, that’s OK. I feel good about being me. It’s hard not to, when you realize how much beauty surrounds you.

 

The Transformation Challenge

I'm so excited - my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one :-D

I’m so excited – my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one :-D

It’s 10 days into the Transformation Challenge at my gym, Iron Tribe, and quite unexpectedly, I’m loving it. The challenge is, well, challenging, but also pretty simply laid out, in my opinion. From January 5th to February 13th, participants eat a strict paleo diet and work out up to 5 times a week at the gym. There are two competitions that are running concurrently: a weight loss division, and a performance division. I’m in the weight loss division, obviously.

There’s a point system for determining the winner. It’s a little complicated, so I won’t break it down entirely, but it includes points for working out in certain amounts, points for keeping a detailed food/water/sleep/exercise journal, points for completing a goal setting course, and points for each .2% of fat lost over the course of the challenge. The prizes are HUGE. First place winner gets a $200 gift certificate to Whole Foods (some of you might recognize it as Whole Paycheck), a free month at the gym, a free week of paleo food from Inner Fire Grill (yum), an entire free outfit from Lululemon, and a free 80 minute massage. Second place gets $150 at Whole Foods, $50 at a nearby restaurant, and a free month at the gym. Third gets $100 at Whole Foods and a great supplements package. I’m in it to win it, so I’m visualizing myself in a brand new Lululemon getup :-D

I'm coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

I’m coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

The awful thing: I had my body fat measured (by caliper) at the beginning of the challenge, and it came in at 43.1%. Meaning that at 5’7″ and 194.8 lbs, I was/am obese. I don’t look it – I mean, I know I’ve put on a little weight in my butt and thighs, and my boobs are bigger (how can that be a bad thing, you ask) but overall I don’t look like I weigh what I weigh. I’ve only gone up one pants size, even with all the additional weight I’ve put on over the last year or so – but “obese” put the fear of god in me. So I’ve been taking this thing seriously. And it hasn’t been hard. That’s the part that’s blowing my mind.

I’m at the gym daily, lifting weights or doing whatever the WOD is that day. I walk to and from work/the gym from my house, and then anywhere else I have to go, so I’m typically walking between 5 and 9 miles a day. I ran a 5k on Saturday morning, and went to my first yoga class in ages on Monday night. And I’ve been eating clean – all organic, no processed food, sugar, wheat, dairy, legumes, alcohol or sodas. You’d think I’d be losing my shit by now, not having a single slice of pizza or sip of wine, but overall I just feel…good. Just good. Not great. Not more focused. Not suddenly insightful or whatever it is that people always proclaim when they’ve found the diet to end all diets. Maybe that’s because it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that will sustain me for the long term, and the longer I go, the better I’ll feel. I’m pretty certain I’ve still got some thyroid stuff going on, especially with the recent struggle with depression, and that’s definitely going to take some of the “high” out of whatever impact this change is having on me. But overall, “good” is much, much better than what I’d been living with prior to starting this new lifestyle. And it’s easy. For the first time in my life, I’ve found a way to eat that doesn’t have me sad and craving constantly. I think I’ll keep doing it.

It’s having other effects, too. As of today, 10 days in, I’ve lost 7.2 lbs. I’m still too heavy, and I have a LONG way to go to get to my goal weight of 145 lbs, but that’s nothing new. But suddenly I feel like it’s not farfetched to picture myself finally wearing a bikini this summer, or trying out a miniskirt before I get too old to wear one (I’ve been dying to try out a TOS Star Trek uniform – yes, I’m a geek).

That's one nearly non-existent skirt you've got there, Uhura.

That’s one nearly non-existent skirt you’ve got there, Uhura.

I think that maybe part of feeling so relaxed about this is from the work I’ve been doing with that book, Beautiful You. Once I get home tonight, I’ll tackle the next chapter.

So what are you doing lately that makes you proud of yourself, internet friends? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment, or direct me to your latest blog post about your achievements. I’d be more than happy to help you celebrate!

Dissatisfaction

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?”

– Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Today’s prompt (gee, I’m going slowly – just on Day 12) in Beautiful You is to realize that my dissatisfaction is not about my body, but rather other things in my life. I’m supposed to consider that fact, and see what my mind is really trying to tell me. What else should I be addressing?

I don’t necessarily believe that being unhappy with the way I look is to be blamed entirely on other life problems. That being said, of course there are a ton of things that all of us need to work on to create better lives for ourselves. I could write a thousand page dissertation on all of the things that I’m dissatisfied in this world, starting with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, easing into the destruction of the rainforest, and rounding out nicely with bigoted, low-IQ’d fundamentalists and their conservative buddies in Congress who are trying to shove their ideals down our throats at every twist and turn these days.

But given today’s reading, I feel like I’m supposed to be talking about what in my life is so dissatisfying that that I’d turn it all inward and focus on being ashamed of my body. Let’s see.

I’m terribly smart, so it’s not that. I’m witty, and I make people laugh. Not uproariously, of course, but I’m not devoid of humor, so that’s a good thing. I’m mildly successful, and creative, and I try very hard to be very nice. So none of those. I’m not really that talented at anything though. I’m a good writer, and a good singer, and I make origami, and I put together great outfits when I try. I’m also a good cook, though I hate cooking and try to avoid it as much as possible.

OK, I’ve figured it out. Kinda. I procrastinate a lot. When I’m anxious, I freeze up (if it’s the good kind of anxious, because otherwise I have a panic attack or something similar). When I freeze up, the only way I can calm myself down is by ignoring the thing that made me anxious. Since almost everything makes me anxious these days – phone calls, emails, talking to people, social engagements of any kind, social media, trying to write long form, trying to be creative, you name it, it’s stressing me the fuck out – this process of ignoring things turns into procrastination. Procrastination begets its own kind of stress. Now, I’m not stupid, I can honestly look at this situation and go, “well, if it stresses you out to procrastinate, wouldn’t it be better to break down the things you have to do into small, manageable chunks and accomplish them that way?” No shit. It’s how I end up making it through every day without boiling over into panic attack mode. But every single day is a repeat of the scenario. It’s driving me crazy. It’s definitely driven me to depression.

But now I’m reading back through this, and I don’t know if I’ve answered the question at all. Maybe these are two different issues that happen to be going on at the same time. Hmmm.

I guess the other reason I might be dissatisfied and taking it out on my body is that I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out. But no, that’s not either. I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out, so I overeat and drink, which in turn makes me gain weight (along with the thyroid issue), and then I’m dissatisfied with my body. But I guess that works. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with my life and blaming it on my body, it’s that I’m dissatisfied with life and find a way to treat that dissatisfaction in an unhealthy way that allows me to turn my attention on my body. Woohoo! Great to know.

Well, I’m already treating part of the issue – I’ve been eating paleo (including no drinking) for a week now. I’ve lost over 6 lbs already, and aside from being tired from my workouts, I’m feeling pretty OK with my body right now. It feels strong, and that’s good. I deadlifted 105 lbs the other day!

I guess that being dissatisfied with the way I look could very well be related to being embarrassed and awkward when it comes to presenting myself physically. I hate being looked at, and any time I get in the spotlight, it makes me really uncomfortable. The same thing happens all the time at work and in social situations – I’ve just learned how to hide how I’m feeling and project a somewhat more confident exterior to my clients and colleagues. The constant doubt and fear does impact me on a personal level every day, and probably also has something to do with my procrastination and interpersonal relationship issues. This is something to think about.