Catching Up, A Bonus Post!

See, this is what happens when school takes over one’s life. Or, I let school take over my life. I end up not having time or energy to post regularly. I need to work on that!

In the meantime, how can I catch up? Let me cram in some details.

Last time I talked about having a wacky allergic reaction (eyes swelled up, yikes), going in for a follow-up diagnostic mammogram appointment (good news, everything’s okay so far!), and dealing with the stress of school and finals and final projects until I felt ready to cry or scream.

Except for taking a week off during finals, I kept up with my workouts. However, I didn’t do so well with my eating habits, which fell apart during the most stressful times of the semester. That is a red flag area in my life that still needs a lot of work.

I made it through “Month 7” of the workout, struggled, gained back 3.5 pounds and lost an additional 1 inch from various areas of my body.

That covered mid-April through May.

What happened after that?

Catching Up. Month 4.

After completing the first 3 months of this experiment, I found that the Pregnancy Project exercises are giving me some changes in the muscular structure of my body, but (understandably, given that it’s a program designed for pregnant women) not necessarily something that’s helping me to lose much weight. I do acknowledge some of that struggle is because my own issues with food.

Nevertheless, I came to the decision that if I wanted to step things up a notch I was going to have to add some cardio to my day. With the increase in warm weather and sunshine as Spring continued to roll in, I felt the best way to start would be to take brisk walks. I think it could be beneficial to combine the two — the Pregnancy Project exercises for muscle definition and the outdoor walks for some weight loss (and a slow build to the next phase of cardio for me, which I’m hoping will be Tracy Anderson’s rebounder workout).

My first day of the new month, I went on a 35 to 40 minute walk through my neighborhood (great breeze, fun tunes on the iPod!), and then came back and did “Month 1” of my Pregnancy Project experiment. Wow! I know some people question Tracy on the ‘only 3 pound weights’ thing as if that’s not enough, but they don’t know what they’re talking about! In month 1 Tracy does these arm exercises with NO weights and I was begging to put my arms down. BEGGING. And maybe even whimpering a little. I was definitely feeling it.

Anyway, the workout felt good. After the overeating I did during finals week, I felt better returning to a healthier approach to food and exercise. It’s something I continue to struggle with but on this first day in the new month it felt good to treat myself and my body with more respect. And the walk outside felt really lovely, soaking up the sunshine.

But then the rain came.

The next day, I couldn’t take a walk because of the rain. The next day, same thing. And again. Suddenly my great new plan to add cardio walks wasn’t so great. I realized I’d need to come up with an alternative for when the weather wouldn’t cooperate. GRRRRR.

Rainy Days aren’t the only obstacle

After the series of rainy days and no walking, the sun finally returned and I was able to resume my walks.

For a day.

The next day, I had family visiting so I figured I’d work out after they left in the afternoon. Only they decided not to leave in the afternoon… by the time they did leave it was 8 pm, I had no energy or desire to walk or work out, and skipped it all entirely.

The next day, I did work out, but didn’t walk outside.

Day after that, worked out again, but no walk. I had too much to do, trying to switch gears and start hunting for jobs and getting paperwork set up for applying for internships.

Thinking back over this particular month, I just don’t think I was ready to add daily cardio to my routine. That’s 35 to 40 extra minutes of time to add on to my schedule. I wanted to do it so that I could see my weight go down, but at the same time I think I was burned out from the spring semester of school and didn’t feel motivated anymore.

One thing I’ve learned is that I don’t do well with changing everything all at once. If I’m going to create a habit, I need to build up to it. What I probably should have done was create a plan for incorporating the cardio, rather than trying to jump into doing it every day right off the bat. I should have started smaller, maybe plan for a couple days of walking per week, and then add on as the walking became habit.

Instead, things fell apart when the weather wouldn’t cooperate, and by the time we had sunny weather again, I had moved on to other things in my life that needed my attention and I lost the momentum to add that cardio. I felt like a failure but I just wasn’t ready.

Summer Internship!

Meanwhile, summer may have been around the corner at this point, but I still had school to tackle. I tallied up all the courses I’ve taken over the past 3 years, and calculated that I only had 2 classes left to take in order to achieve my associate degree in web design and development. Only 2! (Cue happy dance.)

Sadly, one of the classes was not available until the fall session so I couldn’t take both courses and finish by the end of summer like I wanted to. The other course, however, was there if I wanted to take it. All I had to do was get an internship.

The course — a cooperative work experience class — requires you to attend 4 seminars and 2 school meetings with the career center, and complete a project related to your field as part of an internship. It would be an opportunity for me to put what I’ve learned into practice, working with a client, planning a web site from start to finish, designing it, setting it up for them to be able to manage on their own, and putting it live online.

I was so excited and nervous and relieved when two very kind women decided to hire me. (Cue that wacky dance of joy again.)

And how’s this for interesting? It’s a small nonprofit organization that wants to provide nutrition education and affordable fitness opportunities for women who are currently low-income and need the physical and emotional boost. Talk about a topic near and dear to my own heart. I can put my heart and soul into this project, and gladly. 😀

The Return of the Pain in the Neck – Dun dun DUNNNNNNN!

Remember back in March, when I was under a lot of stress (oh hell, during school when aren’t I?), and the left side of my neck and shoulder got all tight and very sore and knotted up? It happened again during this particular month’s workouts. Because it happened when I was under stress last time, when the tightness returned this time I wondered if I’d been bottling up my emotions, causing this horrible tension. There have been things on my mind — some of which I discussed with my therapist, and some of which are just everyday life stresses I’m trying to sort through — but I didn’t think it would be enough to cause such knots! It’s painful. I did my workout anyway, and the exercise seemed to help loosen things up a little, but it still hurt to turn my head to the left or do anything with that shoulder. Back in March it was sore for over a week, and I just don’t have time for that. Then again, maybe it’s my body’s way of saying, “Slow down. You don’t have to drive yourself into the ground. And if you keep this up, we body parts are going to rebel against you until you stop.”

It took about five or six days, but I’m happy to report that eventually the tension loosened up and my neck and shoulder started feeling better. After a little over a week, it felt almost back to normal.

Return of the Bee Stung Look – NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

What is up with these recurring issues??

First it was the neck pain, and then the allergic reaction! Since I didn’t know what it was when it happened in the previous month, I can’t say for sure if the cause this time was the same thing. But once again I woke up with swelling on my eyelids and under my eyes. I looked all puffy and tired. Not pretty, not pretty at all.

This time, though, I think I figured out the problem!

I always use Moisturizer A and have never had a problem with it. However, it’s not usually enough for me during the winter. I need something more to combat the winter dry skin, so I usually switch to Moisturizer B for a month here or a month there during the year. I don’t know if they changed the formulation of Moisturizer B or if my skin just doesn’t like it anymore, but that’s what I used back in April when I had the reaction. But back then I had a lot going on (major stress, not a lot of sleep, plus my aunt and I had just finished spring cleaning), so there were many options as to what could have caused the issue and I just wasn’t sure.

After I had that reaction, I stopped using a bunch of products, just to see if there would be any change. I went back to Moisturizer A and skipped anything potentially new in my routine. I didn’t have a problem again (gotta love that Moisturizer A!).

Then, during this particular month, I ran out of Moisturizer A so I pulled out that set-aside Moisturizer B to use in a pinch. And for the rest of the day my eyelids were desperately itchy. The next morning I woke up just like I did back in April — eyelids and under-eye area all swollen and the base of my neck red, itchy and blotchy.

Coincidence? I think not!

Needless to say, I think Moisturizer B is going into the garbage (what a waste) and I’ll have to find a new solution for my occasional, weather-related dry skin. Let’s hope this is the end of these weird, unexpected allergic reactions!

Return to Healthier Eating

After the failed attempt to incorporate walking into my daily routine, I felt frustrated with myself. I really wanted to see change on the scale but I just wasn’t ready to add on a full 45 extra minutes onto my workout routine. But that didn’t mean I was going to give up entirely. I wanted to find some way to be healthier this month, even if I couldn’t commit to the walks.

So I took an evening and considered some healthy recipes I used to make, back when I lost 50 pounds years ago (this was before I got laid off from my job and ended up gaining it all back). With my school schedule changing and lightening up a tiny bit, I want to make a stronger commitment to making those kinds of recipes for myself, to help my weight loss progress and really get it moving. I feel like my Pregnancy Project experiment is helping to increase my strength and flexibility, but my weight hasn’t moved much at all and I know that’s to do with what I eat (and that I need to add more cardio).

As I mentioned, I don’t do well with jumping in and changing everything all at once, so for starters I looked through my old notes and chose a few recipes that seemed manageable. It was my hope to see some progress with trying a few healthy recipes. I thought that perhaps then I might have more energy to get up earlier and add that cardio.

I put so much pressure on myself, sometimes, that I think it’s good to step back and find ways to make things more do-able.

So I printed out the recipes I wanted to return to, and picked up the groceries needed. Then I jotted down a week’s menu so that I’d have something to refer to when I needed to stay on track. I also started working with my therapist on observing and recording of my thoughts, feelings and subsequent behaviors, not just about food but about life in general. We’re going to track my reactions to stress and anxiety, and after a while we’ll examine the information and then work on ways to help me cope better and learn to react in a different way than I usually do. Hard work! We’ll see how it goes.

Hungry, Hungry, HUNNNNNNNNGRY!

How did the healthier eating go? Well, my first day using those old recipes left me feeling H-U-N-G-R-Y. Big time. To the point of distraction.

I think it’s going to be interesting to see how my body adapts as the weeks go on. Right now I think my body is used to eating more food (and eating more often, too often) so it’s going to have to get used to these changes to lighter fare. I may need to find healthy snacks (like a banana or something) to tide me over during times when I normally would eat too much. I don’t want to go completely ‘no food’ in between main meals and then end up binging because I’m ignoring my body’s hunger. The whole point is for me to learn to listen to my body better and learn when I’m truly hungry and when I’m not. And find other behaviors for when I’m not.

It’s interesting (and frustrating and disturbing) to see my emotional stuff rearing up, as I try to eat less.

As for the recipes I’ve been trying, I think they were pretty tasty. I tried a recipe involving a sandwich on a whole grain bun with Portobello mushrooms, baby spinach and tomato. So I fried up a whole bunch of the mushrooms (no oil, just cooked them in the pan on their own, seasoned with a little black pepper) and kept them in a container in the fridge all week, using them for my lunches every day. And for breakfast I had either fruit (apples and strawberries) or fried egg whites (again, no oil or butter or anything like that, just a nonstick pan). In the evening for a snack I would have either an apple, or a big mug of chai tea, or I tried a recipe from a ‘healthy foods’ website called “Oh, She Glows” — it was a recipe for “pumpkin pie chia pudding” and was a pretty yummy treat. Easy to make, too. I can whip it up in five minutes and stick it in the refrigerator to firm up overnight and the recipe lasts me all week.

I like some of the recipes that I’m using right now because they’re really quick. I like the idea of preparing a bunch of things in advance so all you have to do is grab and go and you aren’t as much at the mercy of your hunger and making decisions at the last minute which might not be healthy. (Which is often my problem when I’m on the run and busy so much.) That’s what I wanted to do with Tracy’s meal plan. But one of the problems I had which made it too hard for me to do Tracy’s food plan was that it involved a lot of prep work and cooking. Considering I was working and going to school, I just did not have time for that kind of time commitment. But now that I have a little bit more time, I can do a little bit more than I did before. Not a lot but some prep. And that involves some fast yet healthy recipes.

The scrambled or ‘fried’ egg whites take 2 to 5 minutes tops, to make. The portobello mushrooms for the sandwiches — I purchase them already sliced from the produce department of my grocery store so I don’t have to take that time to prep anything, and they take 5 minutes total to cook up in a pan. So I had a week’s worth of mushrooms already cooked and stored in the fridge and all I have to do is slap a big spoonful of them on a whole grain bun with maybe a bit of mustard or dijon mustard and some baby spinach leaves and tomato and I’m out the door. Quick and easy, and it lasts me for lunches all week.

And that pudding recipe doesn’t require use of a blender or a mixer or anything major, which is very convenient. Just grab a bowl, throw all the ingredients in at once, use a whisk to stir it up well, and then throw it in the refrigerator to firm up overnight. Spoon some up into a small serving-size bowl. Throw a couple of organic gingersnap cookies into a plastic sandwich bag and smash ’em up into bits and pieces, and dump them on top of the pudding. Done! The ingredients are healthy (and fiber-rich) and you put it in a single-serving size bowl so it looks like you’re eating more than you are (rather than putting it in a regular-sized bowl which you might be tempted to fill up and therefore eat too much) and it’s a nice treat at the end of the day. And I love pumpkin pie flavors, so that’s fun for me. (I see she has a chocolate pudding version too — I may have to give that one a go and see if it’s as easy and as good!)

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been trying. We’ll see what else is out there and how it works for me. If anyone has any yummy, quick, healthy recipes I should try, please do let me know.

Results After Four Months

I finished the 30 days of “Month 1” of my Pregnancy Project experiment. Hooray!

It was a tougher month than I thought it would be.

On the one hand, I started out strong, going for energizing walks through my neighborhood and doing Tracy’s exercises. Her workout for “Month 1” was easier than the exercises in “Month 7,” and that’s understandable because technically I’m doing this all out of order. It would make sense for a pregnancy-related workout to start out at a gentler pace, especially for women who are suffering from morning sickness and a decrease in energy. So I relished the lighter approach. I felt like it gave me a bit of a break after pushing myself so much during the spring semester of school.

On the other hand, I still struggled during this month because I wasn’t able to sustain that cardio I’d wanted to use to push my weight down. And even with the drop in school stress, I felt an increase in other life stresses, especially finances. Being out of work, not getting paid for the internship, having medical bills piling up from the biopsies I had last fall… all of that was adding up and freaking me out. Which leads to overeating, in order to ignore the problem that I couldn’t currently do much about. Which leads to not making progress on my weight loss. Which leads to me feeling crappy about myself. Which leads to no good.

It’s no secret by now that I struggle with food issues — what to eat, how much/how little, what’s healthy, what’s not — along with some serious emotional issues tied to what I eat and when and how much. Sometimes I think that even though it’s not anorexia or bulimia, it’s still an eating disorder of some sort; it’s just a different kind of issue with eating, you know? Eating and emotions, it all seems to be tied together (for me, anyway), and I can’t quite figure it all out yet. It’s one of the toughest struggles I’ve ever dealt with. It’s a large part of why I see a therapist.

Honestly, sometimes I think I won’t find a ‘solution’ for this issue until I heal the part of me that struggles with self esteem, the part of me that feels fat, ugly, not smart enough, not good enough. A part of me knows that kind of negativity is wrong, that I am not those things, but the larger part of me still listens to that negativity and it’s not something I can turn off or simply ‘stop’ doing, like the flick of a light switch. It’s not that simple for me.

For now, I continue to work with my therapist. And as for the food, I have been logging what I’m eating in order to see the areas where I could make changes and improvements.

I try to eat healthy foods, most times I do, mainly by finding healthy recipes that include the types of foods that I especially enjoy (so I know I’ll be more inclined to want to eat those recipes).

But when I am stressed, upset, angry, afraid, very sad, etc., I struggle to make those healthy choices. When I am dealing with emotions like that, I eat too much and I make unhealthy food choices. As if doing that will somehow stop those feelings like a shut-off valve, you know what I mean? Eating somehow helps me ignore those feelings. Perhaps the thing for me to do is to confront those feelings instead. I’m just not sure how to do that smartly and safely. Yet.

What’s also interesting is that the timetable for it all seems to have kicked up to a new place. I recently went out to the place where I usually buy my clothes (the only local place I like to go for clothes in my size that don’t make me feel like I’m being forced to dress like a frumpy old lady), but they were closed. Not closed for the evening, I mean they were closed forever. The shop was completely empty and the sign was gone. So now I feel like the universe is telling me to step it up a notch because I can’t go on like this; I need to be able to fit in smaller-sized clothing and be able to shop in more than one store. I have no choice now. There’s nowhere else for me to go. 😦

Talk about a painful reality.

Anyway, this month was a strange blend of negative struggles and positive attempts to be healthier (especially with the recipes). I did what I could. Unfortunately, because I didn’t really amp up my workouts with added cardio like I wanted to, and the healthy eating changes didn’t occur until near the end of the month, I didn’t see much change at all, at the end of this 30-day cycle.

Perhaps it was too much to throw on an additional 35 minutes of workout to my day, and expect to keep it up every day. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I’m not good with jumping into excessive workout plans (excessive for fitting into my schedule, I mean) and sustaining that for longer than a couple of weeks. Especially when it means adding on a lot of extra time for it that I’m not used to allotting. I’m much better at working my way up to a regular, everyday routine, adding in and building up that time bit by bit, week by week. That’s what works for me. So perhaps in this new month I’ll do better to chart out a plan for adding in the cardio, and not make it an all-at-once, everyday thing, but instead maybe add in increments until it becomes an everyday thing again.

I saw a half inch drop off my bust, and a half inch off each thigh (if I can trust measuring my own thighs, which is really awkward). I thought I had some change in my hips too but when I remeasured it was the same as last month, so perhaps not. Basically, I lost about 1.5 inches, if I can count on my measuring skills, bringing me to a total inches lost of about 12 inches so far.

As for the scale, my weight has fluctuated all month. I don’t know if it was stress or bloating from something, but I felt like I was never going to get away from the weight I was when I started this new experiment (that was 280 pounds). But in the last two weeks with the effort to return to some healthy recipes, I think that helped, because while I didn’t see a major change in inches, I finally dropped back down to 277. It’s only 3 pounds, but it’s a move in the right direction.

To sum up, after four months I’ve lost about 12 inches and only 3 pounds. Damn those fluctuations and my eating issues!

Up next, month 5 of my experiment! Did I resume the cardio walks? Did I keep up my healthy eating? Did I manage to avoid neck pain and allergic reactions, damn it!?

Stay tuned…

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