Exercise Philosophy

It’s been a while since I posted! I have been really busy with work. Also, to be honest I hit a sort of rut for a couple of weeks. A lot of it has honestly been that eating healthy can be such a time commitment, whereas eating still-sort-of-healthy but not up to my goals is a lot easier. But this week I’ve been working on getting back on the right track.

One thing I did do right is join a gym, and that’s what I want to talk about. It’s been mostly great so far! I’m still walking outside a couple of times a week because I like to be in the sun. But a few times a week, 2 or 3, I’ve been going to the gym to do cardio. I generally do 35 minutes on the elliptical and anywhere from 10 to 25 on the recumbent bike. I like the sense of accomplishment I get from going to the gym, even though sometimes the walk seems like just as intense a workout.

I’ve been avoiding any kind of strength training so far, though. I haven’t really felt good enough in my body to do it, so I was planning on continuing with cardio and nutrition until I lost a little more weight, and then I would work in weight training, Pilates and yoga.

However, I joined LA Fitness, a national chain, and they offer a free workout with a personal trainer for new members (standard practice for big gyms). I thought it wouldn’t hurt to see what a trainer would have to say about what would be good for me and what kind of things I should focus on.  So, I went. And unfortunately it was a really terrible experience.

My trainer asked me first thing when I got there, if I was interested in pursuing a personal training program full time. I told him, honestly it would depend on pricing. I am a poor little freelance writer and don’t have a lot of extra cash to burn. Well, immediately I could see that the direction of my training session was going to take a brand new course.

Granted, there were some things that were my fault. I didn’t eat enough beforehand, having only had juice and some fruit all day. I also forgot my water bottle but there were plenty of drinking fountains in the room, so I thought it would be fine.

I went to personal training hoping to get a good idea of what would be useful for me personally. What are good exercises someone with my level of fitness and my size. He was not interested in helping me with any of that. I tried to tell him how much I have accomplished so far on my own but he interrupted me and changed the subject. Instead of helping me as an individual, he took me through the training session of someone who already uses a personal trainer. At every machine the weight was one step higher than it should have been, so I could barely complete the last half of each segment. And, he was going so fast, I didn’t have a chance to note which machines we were using (I know most of them, but some were new to me) and more importantly I didn’t get a chance to see what weight I was using. On top of that, he took a very militaristic approach, yelling at me and calling me a quitter when my muscles would give out. This was yesterday. By last night I was too sore to move much and for most of today I couldn’t get out of bed. I am typing like a tyrannosaurus rex with just my wrists and fingers because I have very limited movement in my arms.

Now, this is extreme. He was horrible and instead of making me feel great about the future of my fitness journey and feeling confident in all I’ve accomplished already, he made me just feel weak. To be honest with you, I was practically in tears by the time I left the gym. Although that might have been partially due to low blood sugar.

Now I’ve had a little time to process everything that happened. More than one loved one suggested I complain to the gym’s management about how many ways that trainer upset me. But, I’m not really interested in that, since I have to keep going to this gym and potentially seeing him.

What I am interested in, is figuring out what can be learned from this experience. The first thing is that, even though he was an unfriendly stranger who was not interested in providing guidance, he accidentally was useful in one way. He was a reminder that I do have a long way to go. Not knowing me, not knowing how much I’ve accomplished already, I probably looked like a lost cause to him, just there because it was free and that was that. I certainly don’t want people making assumptions about me (especially negative ones) but it’s not so incorrect. For all that I’ve done already, I’m really only just starting. I’ve made it maybe 10% of the way so far. That’s not enough.

The other thing it made me think about was how I want to proceed with working out. I don’t want to be a body builder, but I do understand cardio isn’t always going to be enough. Maybe it would be enough for weight loss, but I want total wellness. Things like strength and balance are as much a part of that as everything else I’ve been doing. The trainer said if you aren’t pushing yourself every time you work out, there’s no point. I can’t decide if I buy into that philosophy. Certainly it’s not productive to have 24 hours of injury for every 45 minutes of weight train. But at the same time it was kind of a wake up call that maybe it’s time to rise up to a next level.  I haven’t totally decided what the next level is but I will work it out.

-lj

Dieting is Hard

Well, last week was not as successful as the previous ones have been. It wasn’t necessarily unsuccessful, I don’t think I gained weight, specifically, but I certainly didn’t make any progress either. I don’t think I ate more calories than normal, I wasn’t going crazy on my portions or snacking all day, but I also wasn’t as conscious of grains, dairy and sugar as I am supposed to be.

It all started with my bad mood and subsequent pity pizza on Monday. Well, the bad mood really never ended, and neither did the pizza. I still had six pieces left after lunch on Monday, and I felt obligated to eat it. I paid for it, after all. Thus, pizza everyday during the week. The first night, I made a really nice green smoothie for dinner, because I was so unsatisfied with eating pizza during the day. The other days, there was a noticeable decline in my ratio of vegetables to non-veggies. For instance, Friday night I used a curry that came from a jar (granted a locally produced jar but, still it’s not homemade) and even though I paired it with a huge pile of fruit and vegetables, I also paired it with mahi that had been rolled in coconut that I bought from the Fresh Market counter (delicious, but not the point!). I’m not sure what they used to make the coconut stick but I’d wager it wasn’t spinach juice. Is spinach juice even sticky? The point is, my goal was to try hard to avoid processed or complex foods. I want things basic. Vegetables, fruits, the occasional beans and nuts, less occasional fish. Essentially I want to be able to survive in the Hunger Games if I ever end up a teenager in the post-apocalyptic future.

Maybe my goal is too lofty, but I don’t think it is. First of all, it’s been working. People are commenting on my visible weight loss. Second, the fact is, it’s a goal and I want to continue to try to reach it, even if it isn’t exactly possible. Right now I think I have gotten too complacent. The first few weeks were so exciting. I was making big changes and exploring this change in lifestyle was so fun and new. But now the thrill is largely gone, and the lifestyle is less new and more monotonous. Things like taking a half hour to chop fruit for a juice in the morning, where I used to grab a sugar-filled yogurt and granola bar, are less invigorating than they were in the beginning.

Part of the problem is that I was feeling really down in the dumps this week. Without getting into it too much, I’ve been job hunting , which is a terrible process always. But at the same time, maybe that’s not really it. I’m not sure. Am I feeling low because I’m not eating as well, or am I eating worse because I’m feeling low? I’m inclined to think they feed off of each other. (Pun absolutely intended.)

Thus, a solution. I need to find a reason to stop with complacency. I need to re-rev. Maybe just writing this blog entry will do the trick. Maybe trying on some jeans that still don’t fit but fit better than they did two months ago. I have been thinking about doing another 10 day cleanse. I was planning on waiting until I hit the 60 day mark, but maybe I should do it sooner.

Or maybe I can just change my attitude. Part of the reason I’m here in the first place is that I have always used eating as a way to make myself feel better. But, isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing by eating healthy? I’ve felt my most lively and clear-headed in years the last few weeks. Maybe I just need to hold onto that. Maybe the lifestyle change isn’t as complete as I thought it was, because stress-binging on junk food is still my default first response. But a good healthy concoction is always going to make me feel better because it is what my body needs, physically. But also, making it is an accomplishment. Pressing “order now” at nachosandpizza.com is not.

So that’s what I’ll try first. Will power and the possibility of self-satisfaction. Plus, honestly I really do still like juice.

-lj

PS: The smoothie I made Monday night was quite successful. I didn’t have a lot of groceries left, so I just threw whatever into it. Turns out my leftovers go well together!

Also, we still don’t have a blender, but we broke out the food processor. A blender would be better, because it would be smoother, but the FP worked in a pinch.

Green Tea Green Smoothie

Fair warning: This recipe makes a ton of smoothie so either be starving or share it. Or cut the recipe in half, but I hate using less than a whole avocado because they turn so quickly once opened.

Green Tea Green Smoothie

  • 1 Small Avocado
  • 1 handful Kale (maybe 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 handfuls Spinach (maybe 3/4-1 cup)
  • 1 Small Gala Apple
  • 1 Navel Orange
  • Juice from 1 Lemon
  • Juice from 1/2 Lime
  • 1 1/2 inches Ginger
  • 12 Ounces Kombucha Green Tea (with 1 Packet Stevia)

I recommend blending the kale, spinach, ginger and carrots a little on their own first, then adding the fruit and tea after. Make sure the Green Tea has cooled to room temperature. Give it a little longer to blend than you normally would. Of course, if you are using a real blender instead of my basic food processor it might not be as much of an issue. The whole thing tastes pretty good. The tea goes well with the greens and ginger, and the stevia and apple really are great for sweetening it up. The avocado is a perfect substitute for yogurt to make it creamy. I will definitely make this again.

Exercise: The Other Half of This Thing

So, something I’ve noticed about the topic of the best way to lose weight: everybody has an opinion. Cut out fat, cut out sugar, cut out carbs, avoid cheese, count calories, join a program and on and on. And in my experience you can find expert evidence to support all of those ideas. The one thing most people agree on though, is that exercise is important.

But even that gets variations: walking is good enough, walking is not enough, or it is enough if you are moving fast enough. Running is better. Running isn’t really that great. Classes are more effective. Just do a 10 minute video at home–they really work! And again, I’m sure if not expert research there is at least plenty of anecdotal evidence to support them all.

This week I was all set to join a gym. Excuse me, not a gym, a health club. It’s an expense I really shouldn’t splurge on, financially speaking, but it’s something that is important enough to me I can figure it out. This place looks great. It’s the closest gym to my house, and it’s big, with plenty of equipment, classes, a nice pool and even a juice bar. If you recall, I really love my liquids.

But then, in a ridiculous and embarrassing misstep, I sprained my wrist while trying to maneuver a large suitcase. I figured the cross-trainers and ellipticals I wanted to use would not be the best thing for it, so instead I put off the gym a week and I’ve been walking.

Walking is how I’ve been exercising for several months now, but I think with my new detoxified energy, I’m moving faster so it feels like more of a workout. I’ve been walking an hour a day, and by the end, I can feel it. Even though I am excited to join a gym when my wrist is healed, exercising outdoors has a certain appeal to it. Time of year in particular, everything looks and feels beautiful.

So, I mentioned to a small group of friends that I was enjoying this, and some day wouldn’t mind learning how to run. I say learning how because it is not an intuitive movement for me. I still have post traumatic flashbacks to the required 9th grade mile run. Except my mile run looked more like desperate flailing played back in slow motion than actual running. I just have never mastered how to do it.

But before that point, I’m not sure my body could even handle running right now, which is what I told my friends who were encouraging me. For reference, one of these friends is a doctor about to start a fellowship in sports medicine, one is a marathon runner and one is a non-runner, but instead does all the fun workouts like the ballet barre and reformer Pilates.

They all encouraged me to keep up with the walking and see what happens from there. The doctor’s words were, “Walking counts!” She said it so forcefully like people don’t believe her but she knows it’s true. Then later, basically, my body will get so accustomed to being able to move free form via walking, gradually working in a one or two minute jog will feel easy. Eventually. And then I can keep evolving from there.

On the other hand, the non-runner friend said someone she knows has lost nearly 100 pounds just from walking. He has essentially given up his car altogether and walks absolutely everywhere. Any errands he needs to run, he walks. Pun intended. I’m sort of skeptical of that, because she said he didn’t even change his eating habits, but I do like the concept.

The point is that movement is important.

I’m still pretty excited to join a gym. But I found the story of the man who walks uplifting, and I like the idea of walking until one day running is just the next natural step. Pun still intended. It’s like, if you’ve ever seen at the movie the Usual Suspects, at the end a character transforms his gait and becomes an entirely different person. I don’t have any interest in organized crime and being an Eastern-European mob boss, but the idea transcends.

I’ve spent the last two or three weeks, and all of this blog, focusing just on changing my food habits. But that’s not the only habit that needs adjusting. I’m excited to see how much farther and faster I can go on foot, and to see how much more motivated I get once I’m in a gym and surrounded by equally motivated people.

So no more ignoring the exercise part of the plan.

-lj

Finding a Plan: The Cleanse

I hate the word “diet.” To me, the connotation is a quick fix, where the only goal is to get skinny. Skinny is the least of my concerns at this point. I am more focused on healthy. So, my goal right now (and always) is to change my general way of living. I don’t want a temporary fix.

I started this lifestyle change about three months ago: cutting out fried foods, cheese and saturated fats in general, plus sweets, limiting starches and trying to make sure vegetables and fruits were my major food groups. It was going pretty well. I wasn’t even monitoring weight loss, I just wanted to get into a groove where eating really healthy seemed normal.

Last year I was really dependent on take out food for most of my meals. Turns out, when you let restaurants make your food for you, there is no way to regulate what’s in it. So even if I was eating tofu with vegetables (which I was…some of the time), there’s still the (strong) possibility that it’s tofu, vegetables and like 2 cups of vegetable oil and a pound of salt. And let’s not kid ourselves, for every night 0f tofu and vegetables there was a night of half a cheese pizza and a small pile of breadsticks.

So somewhere in December I finally decided to get my act together. I am not adverse to cooking and eating vegetables, I just needed to start getting used to it again. I started using an online/phone app program for calorie counting (myfitnesspal.com), because I did it once before and was very successful. I like calorie counting because it helps me set limits for myself. I like the simple arithmetic of it: figure out how many calories your body needs to stay nourished but lose its excess, then only eat things up to that particular stopping point. I like how cut and dry that system is–it is easy to understand and thus easy to follow. So things were going great for a while. But then, in February I took the bar exam.

If you’ve never taken a bar exam, be happy about that. It is a terrible, long and grueling process: study for twelve-fifteen hours a day for six weeks, and then take a two day intensive standardized exam, on which your entire future relies. It’s a little bit stressful. Thus, calorie counting was not nearly as a high a priority as avoiding a mental breakdown, so I replaced salads and roasted vegetables with whatever the hell I wanted. After the exam was over I told myself I could have a week where I could indulge in doing eating as I pleased: cupcakes, pizza, noodles in cream sauce, breaded chicken, cookies, nachos and more than a couple 7 & 7’s.

When this whirlwind of gluttony settled down, I felt gross. Instead of feeling like I had finally gotten over the post-bar exhaustion, I felt worse. So, I decided I needed to rejuvenate. That brings us almost to present day.

I’ve done cleanses before, but mass-marketed ones that didn’t really work. This time, I wantit to be different, because again, I’m concerned with healthiness more than getting skinny. I can only assume weight loss is a natural side effect of treating my body better. Since I’m just looking for a quick fix, I did some research.

I’ve wavered a lot over whether my cleanse should incorporate detox supplements or should be just based on foods and liquids. Ultimately I have decided on cleansing through diet, and if it doesn’t seem to be working, maybe I will reevaluate.

A cleanse means exactly what it implies. It cleans out disgusting things that have built up inside our bodies due to things like junk food, alcohol or smoke. It mostly focuses on the colon and the liver, which are the major organs for filtering things, and so that’s where a lot of build up occurs. But, I don’t want to get too gross about stuff.

So I’ve spent a lot of time searching around the Internet for a good cleanse that would make me feel refreshed and less run down, and to rid my body of the bad mojo left behind by the bar exam.

I found one online that I really like: The Whole Living 2012 Action Plan. Whole Living is a site apparently owned by Martha Stewart’s media regime, which kind of explains why the site’s recipes involve a lot of time and money. Sadly, I do not own a media conglomerate and do not really want to buy an entire bunch of fennel so I can use a half cup. But still, I really like the holistic approach of this cleanse. It incorporates simple exercises and meditation into the cleansing process. Plus, the fact that it starts out super intense and then gradually gets easier, will hopefully make it easier to be able to keep up the lifestyle when the actual cleansing is over.

But, like I said a lot of the recipes sound either expensive or inedible, so I have been looking for other options too. There is a lot of information available about what foods are good for cleansing/detoxing. I’ve decided I am going to use the basic setup of the Whole Living program, but incorporate different recipes using only detoxing/cleansing foods.

The gist of everything I read is that this is basically a raw foods diet. A cleanse diet should be almost entirely made up of fresh produce, maybe some oils and a legume here and there, but no sugar, starch or animal products. This is like choosing the hardest level on a video game. Exciting, challenging but there’s a good chance I will die*! (*not resulting in actual death.)

I am really excited to get started on this. I think it will be a great experience and a really good way to get both my body and brain accustomed to healthy living.

ps here are some resources for cleansing foods:

-lj