Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In: Work Events and Revelations

This is coming a bit late, but I've been trying to put some thoughts together from my results this week. Frankly, I've been doing this for three months and I'm not making close to the progress that I want to be making. I'm working out, I'm tracking, I'm trying. It's frustrating.

The positive side is that from this frustration came a much needed wake-up call. I looked over my history from myfitnesspal (I'm leahb423, feel free to friend me!) and here, did the math, and figured out some important things about my habits and (lack of) progress. The bottom line is this: despite tracking and working out, I’m just not eating on the calorie deficit I thought I was. I need to face that, and step the hell up if I want to stop maintaining. More on that later.

J and I spent the long weekend upstate with my family, and then I went to two different goodbye parties this week, one for a couple of departing co-workers and the other for a friend of ours who’s moving out of the country.

Overall it was a busier week than we’re used to - we’re usually at home most evenings - but really fun. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been over the weekend with my family, but we took a couple of lengthy walks and I tracked everything. 

I also felt pretty good and in control of myself at the two goodbye parties, aware of what I was eating and if it was worth it. I tried to focus on the people I was with and enjoy that instead of thinking about the delicious bar food available. Though the firm pays for an open bar at events like these, I stopped after two reasonably low calorie cocktails and switched to diet soda.

This is the opposite of our office motto.

In related news, due to the recent departure of two of my colleagues, I am now the most senior person of my position at my workplace. It’s not that strange, since paralegals usually cycle out after 2-3 years to go to law school or other jobs, but it’s a little unnerving that all the people I started with at my job are now gone and how quickly it changed. Thankfully, the people that have replaced them over the last year and a half are awesome, and I know how lucky I am to have a job, let alone a job with great people and that pays decently.

So here are the numbers from the week:

Measurements 4/23/20144/30/20145/7/20145/14/20145/21/20145/28/2014
Pounds Fat79.581.578.379.178.578.6
Pounds Muscle 67.468.467.468.667.167.1

While I was not happy that my weight as a whole was up, fat and muscle numbers stayed the same, so maybe some of this is bloat. I worked out three times during the week, and am starting to add weight when strength training. Now I’m pushing/lifting/pulling more in the 40-50 range instead of the 30-40 range, so that’s progress.

Onto a new week, where we have ANOTHER Jewish holiday, celebrating when God gave the Jews the Torah (Bible) on Mount Sinai. How do we celebrate? Cheesecake, mostly. And blintzes. Thankfully this is the last one until the Jewish New Year in the fall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Goal Weight" Clothes are Pointless

I recently bought some spring clothes, as most of my clothes are either too small or meant for winter. I got some nice brightly colored tops, sandals, and a few dresses. New sunglasses were also necessary, since the pair I’d had for the last ten years finally broke. I bought them for $10 at a random highway stop stand when I was fifteen and they served me well.

I like having nice new clothes, but I don't love shopping, especially as a size 14. I've talked about the annoyance of vanity sizing, and it's still going strong. Yesterday I went to work in some of my new clothes: a dress, size XL, and a white cardigan, size medium. Both are fitted pieces and were flattering. I think they may have even been the same brand. This makes no sense.

Context. Thanks for the inspiration Kara 

While vanity sizing is an equal opportunity exasperation, fun for everyone from obese to petite, shopping while trying to lose weight has a unique challenge: the temptation to buy something that’s just a little too small. Why not? you say. I’ll fit into this dress when I weigh fifteen pounds less, it’s such a nice dress, such a good price, let me just buy it and wear it in a couple of months when I’m thinner.

I’m not the savviest of shoppers, but as a person who has fluctuated from 145-200 pounds since high school, there is one shopping rule I've learned to follow: Always, always, buy the size you are now. Always buy what fits and is comfortable today.

Sometimes when I see women buying clothing with the promise to lose some weight in order to actually wear it, it looks like a punishment. It's a hint that they don’t deserve to wear the item until they've lost weight. This attitude seems especially prevalent in bridal shops.

But I’m not going to punish myself for being fat by buying pretty clothes I can’t wear. There are already enough “negative” reasons for me to lose weight - I’m not comfortable in my body, I’m not healthy - I don’t need too tight clothing as another reminder of what I haven't accomplished.

So I buy what fits now. It just makes more sense.
  • When (yes!) I do lose weight, I can have clothing taken in. So if I really love something that I bought a few months ago and is now too big, I probably don’t have to say goodbye to it completely
  • It’s impossible to predict how my body will change as I lose - perhaps my waist will be thinner in proportion  to my hips than they are now. 
    • This is also a reason against buying a goal style - like a bikini or skinny jeans
    • A few years ago my sister lost about 25 pounds. She went down two sizes, but her larger-than-average chest stayed the same. If she had bought a cute but too small top at her heavier weight, it might not have ever fit
  • Why not buy something I can wear tomorrow? Why fill my wardrobe with things I can't wear?
    • It’s nice to wear something new. Besides, if I'm buying it now, that almost always means I need it now, not in five months.
    • It's confusing and absurd to go through ones wardrobe and have to remember if any given thing fits

  • Avoid unnecessary pressure to lose weight to fit into whatever it is. Why create that drama? I should be able to wear everything in my closet. 
  • I've fluctuated a lot since high school, so I already have clothes that don’t quite fit right now. I have an amazing blue work dress that I looked damn good in, and right now it doesn't even zip. That can be my “lose weight and wear this” or goal pile, I don’t need any more.
  • Nobody knows what size you are, so might as well buy the one that fits and looks good, and enjoy it

I hate "sizing up" as much as the next person even though I know how arbitrary it is. In the past, when I've bought something that fits and looks good, but is a size I don't like, I cut the tags out of it when I get home. Care instructions are usually on a separate tag, so there's no reason to keep the one that lists the size. I soon forget what size it was in the first place, but I have something nice that fits me well. 
Bonus: sizing up, when I need a larger size, will make me look smaller because properly fitting clothing always does.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In

I had a great weekend in Boston, enjoying my brother’s college graduation, the Red Sox spirit everywhere, and time with family. My parents were especially thrilled to pack up the car with a child's’ crap for the last time. It was also the last time they arrived to load the car with the contents of a dorm room and immediately realize that 90% of it wasn’t packed. Being a parent sounds like a never-ending joy.

Food-wise, it wasn’t great. I’m still not good at being out of my comfort zone, especially when surrounded by food that I did not make and can’t measure. This is probably part of why weekends are my worst times, though our Sunday gym sessions make a big difference.

My brother and his roommates cooked dinner for their families over the weekend. It was such a lovely gesture, and they ended up making enough to feed fifty because they were worried about not having enough for everyone. I had trouble stopping myself from picking at the huge plates of lovely food they created, especially since the meal was long. Then there was the ice cream meal at my brother’s favorite place, where I enjoyed a generous scoop of peanut butter cookie dough chip ice cream. (I think that one was worth it, actually.)

With the help of J, I tracked/estimated everything I’d had, and we took a couple of nice walks. That’s definitely an improvement from a couple of months ago.  I got right on track when back in New York, going to the gym four times (three in the morning), plus weighing and measuring food. So for that, I’m proud.

I stepped on the scale this week expecting the weekend to show itself in digital format, but was pleasantly surprised.

Measurements 4/23/20144/30/20145/7/20145/14/20145/21/2014
Pounds Fat79.581.578.379.178.5
Pounds Muscle 67.468.467.468.667.1

Down slightly less than a pound from last week! Maybe those walks and good day paid off more than I thought and helped with the one or two bad ones. However, I was still kind of appalled at how I looked in the recent graduation photos - my face is still rounded and full like it was at my highest - I’m trying to use that as motivation. When I was just 15 pounds lighter, my face looked much better. 


I want to get there again. I want to make long term, tangible progress. This is the point in the game where I’m young enough and overweight enough that I don’t have to be satisfied losing three pounds a month; I can healthily lose faster than that if I just stick to what I’m doing.

Have a great one!

Monday, May 19, 2014

On Morning Workouts

As I mentioned, we got up before work twice last week and went to the gym. It really is better and more convenient in basically every way to work out in the mornings. This is at least true for me, as someone with a full-time job and few outside obligations.

I am recording this for prosperity, to remind myself to get off my ass in the evenings and plan for the next day.

The Many Advantages of Morning Workouts:

  • Gym is less crowded in the mornings, and newly cleaned
  • Starting the day on a great note, and feeling good about myself all day
  • Getting home earlier in the evenings
    • No eating dinner at 9:00 PM, plus more options to have a date night or run errands
  • Being forced into a better sleep schedule - got to go to sleep on time if we're going to wake up early
  • Knowing calorie allotment for the day instead of debating if I should eat a bigger lunch, because I don’t know how many calories I’ll be burning later or if I’ll get stuck at work instead
  • Similar bonus: Staying late at work doesn't mean missing a workout
  • A feeling of superiority towards everyone on the subway, knowing that it’s unlikely they were awesome enough to work out in the morning

Love me, subway patrons. 

  • Not worrying about coordinating with J
    • There’s always a tiny bit of logistics in the evening, since I’m coming from work and he’s coming from home, but if we go in the morning we’re already in the same place. It also works at the end of the workout, since we split up after the gym - me to work and him back home. So he can stay a bit extra if he feels like it without making me wait
  • One less clothing change
    • I can go from pajamas to workout clothes to work clothes to pajamas, instead of pajamas to work clothes to workout clothes to pajamas.
    • I just realized that’s actually the same, but for whatever weird reason the first one feels more convenient.

Some disadvantages: The only things on TV are morning talk shows, my time is limited because I have to go to the office, and any breakfast/lunch items that I want to bring into the office have to sit in a locker or my bag for an extra hour.

These are quite minor compared to the benefits, I just like to be thorough. 

So note to self at 8:30 PM: Get off your ass for 3 minutes and pack a gym bag. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In: Boston

I’m writing from Boston, where we are celebrating my brother’s college graduation. We arrived late last night and spent today visiting my brother and taking a guided tour of the Freedom Trail, a marked pathway through some of Boston’s most famous historic sites. We really enjoyed it and got a good long walk in the warm, drizzly rain as a bonus. I really love all the history in this city.

Trivia: Where is Ben Franklin buried? Answer: Philadelphia, where he died, even though people come looking for him in Boston, where he was born and lived for the most famous part of his life, and even though there’s a monument with his name on it in the same cemetery where Paul Revere is buried. Other fun fact: Christopher Columbus never sat for a portrait in his life, so any paintings of him are based off of memory or descriptions.

Total crap.

This was a pretty good week, especially since it was so short. Work was slow as many of the attorneys are out of the office for various cases, which is always nice. I tracked faithfully, though did go over my daily calories. I was still at a deficit each day but not at a 1.5-2 pounds/week kind of deficit. I know,  I either need to stick with the 1300 calorie limit, or raise it and purposefully lose weight more slowly.

Anyway, here are this week’s results:

Measurements 4/23/20144/30/20145/7/20145/14/2014
Pounds Fat79.581.578.379.1
Pounds Muscle 67.468.467.468.6

While I was disappointed, this number didn’t bother me too much as I am definitely, 100% bloated. I know I had a calorie deficit overall for this week, and the working out is still working out.  I’m pushing myself more. I realized that there are different kinds of ellipticals, and some lend themselves to more challenging workouts than others. So I need to keep using the tougher ones.

We went to the gym three times this week, two of them in the morning before work. Going to the gym in the mornings is something we’ve always had as a “that would be a really good idea” concept, kind of like when you run into somebody and they’re like, “Let’s have lunch!”  and everyone knows it’s not going to happen. Part of the failure is because it involves planning ahead. Apparently deciding what to wear to work in advance and going to sleep at a reasonable hour is a huge challenge for me.

There might be a couple of celebratory meals this weekend, and I’m going to keep reminding myself that this is not Paris, it’s just Boston, and nothing I’m going to eat is a unique opportunity, though it might be delicious. Besides, I live in New York City, right? I can eat anything there.

The lies will seizure you

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

You Can Do Things Better By Accident

When I did personal training, I learned that the ideal way to lift weights is to push each muscle to exhaustion. There’s a point where you feel like you can’t do any more repetitions, but the trainer encourages you to do a couple more, and you’re able to push yourself and your muscles to those last ones that end up mattering the most. Basically they know what you’re capable of more than you do. Usually the correct weight for a person is one at which they can do 10-15 challenging reps. During these sessions, I learned how to push myself more while working out and to actually use more than just the cardio machines.

Disclaimer: I’m repeating things I learned and that I think work for me personally, I’m not a personal trainer.

At our current gym, I started each weight machine on the lightest setting. There was one on which I could barely do one rep (overhead press), but for the most part I was doing pretty well on all the machines. I’ve even increased the weights on most of them over the last months.

This show is awful.

However, since I’m a moron, I didn’t realize until last week that I hadn’t actually started on the lightest setting. To “set” the lift amount for most weight machines, you insert a metal rod horizontally into the desired weight. So that’s what I did for each machine when I started out, putting it on the lowest number (usually 50 pounds for most arm machines) and assuming it was the lightest setting. It turns out that you can put the machine on an even lighter setting, down to 30 pounds, by inserting the metal rod vertically through another weight on the side.

I laughed when I realized, and wondered: if I had not made this mistake, and therefore had started the machines on their actual lightest settings, would I have noticed? Would I have realized that I could lift much more (at least comparatively)? How much have I been holding myself back because I assume I’m not able to do it, when really I just need to learn how to push myself?

In other news, we are headed out this weekend for my brother's college graduation. I still think of him as being fourteen, but apparently he's graduating from college. While it's going to be an exciting weekend, I'm anticipating a lot of food challenges. 

I'm still so, so far from where I want to be. Sometimes it feels like, yay, you're going to the gym, now lose some damn weight, and nothing rationalizes away the frustration. Tomorrow is the next weigh-in, and I hope to at least have maintained last week's great loss, if not more. I worked hard this week. I'm tracking, I'm trying. Gah.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In: She's Down!

You know those moments, where you do something that just makes you feel really proud of yourself? Ace the paper, spot the error in the important document that nobody else noticed, cook a delicious and healthy meal, nail the comeback. They’re not usually big things, but they make you feel like you can do anything.

On Wednesday I got stuck at work until almost ten. As I was leaving, I called my husband and told him to meet me at the gym. And gym we did. I am disproportionately proud of myself for this. It was a long day, but I actually wanted to go - it’s nice to move around a bit after mostly sitting in front of a computer all day, and to justify watching TV or just letting my mind wander.  


I'm taking this as a great sign of progress. I would love to get to the point - long term - where I look forward to working out as a time to focus on myself and getting stronger, and take a break from whatever else is going on in life.

When we were on the way home, in my head was something like, “I can’t believe we just did that. I got out of work at ten pm, and instead of getting home and crawling into bed to watch S.H.I.E.L.D, I actually acknowledged that I wasn’t that tired, it wasn’t that late, and that it would be good for us to exercise. This. I’m doing it, I’m actually doing it. This is awesome. Everyone, look how awesome I am! Everyone is awesome. America! Togetherness! We can do so many things. Hey random stranger, we can do things! Everything is beautiful.”

So, onto the numbers. Fantastic results this week! I am really happy.

Measurements 4/9/20144/23/20144/30/20145/7/2014Difference from Previous Week
Weight186.2188.1188.3185.8Minus 2.5 lbs weight
Pounds Fat76.679.581.578.3Minus 3.2 lbs fat
Pounds Muscle 65.467.468.467.4Minus 1 lb muscle 

Even from the “low” I hit a couple of weeks ago, this is a new low!

Overall weight is down 2.5, and fat is down over three pounds. Muscle is a bit down too but holding steady from a couple of weeks ago. I take these weekly numbers with a movie-popcorn grain of salt, as it’s more the month to month numbers and averages that show the real weight trends. I didn’t lose literally three pounds of fat and one of muscle in seven days, obviously, but I do think I weigh a little less than last week, and have a little less fat. I hope to keep the trend going this week.

I don’t think I was particularly magical this week, but I tend to think that any weekly weigh-in isn't just about that week's progress, but rather a culmination of the last several weeks.

This is a comparison between yesterday and eight months ago, when I was still on the way up, weight-wise:

Measurements 9/3/20135/7/2014Extra
Pounds Fat
Pounds Muscle

Funny how upset I was when I saw that on the scale in September, but now I would be thrilled. The numbers are a little weird, as this indicates that I gained a lot of fat even though the net gain is only a few pounds. However, the muscle is up too, so according to this I gained eleven pounds of mass, but only three actual pounds.

In other news, I've been thinking it might be time for another measuring session. The last one was in March, about two months ago. I have since lost 4-5 net pounds, and we've kept up the gym routine of going three or four times a week. Hopefully the measurements will reflect that. While measuring just a few times a year instead of every two months might yield bigger changes, I'd like to see the smaller progression as well. I'm also impatient as hell.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The "If" Word and Weight Loss

“If I can lose 40 pounds by next year, I would be really proud of that huge weight loss and would buy a pretty and flattering dress that I never could have worn at my higher weight.” 

“If I lose this weight, I’m going to buy a sexy bathing suit and wear it with confidence.”

“If I don’t have too much stress from switching jobs, I will start going to the gym three times a week.”

These are all things I’ve heard other people say fairly frequently, in Weight Watchers meetings, weight loss forums, or just average conversations about dieting. I'm sure I've said them myself. There’s nothing inherently horrible about these statements, of course, but I think there’s something to be said for the constant use of “if."

Similarly, I’ve found myself speaking with qualifiers when referring to weight loss, using words like "if," "hopefully," "maybe," or "perhaps." But I’ve realized that this is, in in a minor but real way, negatively influencing the attitudes I have about my own ability to accomplish things. Why if? All of this weight stuff is in my control; whether I weigh fifty pounds less or ten pounds more next year, it will all have been my doing.

My old Plan B.

Saying “if” (and similar words) can work as a safety net or a form of self-deprecation. 

Sometimes it stems from simple doubt. When I’m uncertain about or don’t trust my own chances of success, when the idea of a fifty-pound loss feels more like a fantasy than a possibility, I’m not going to speak confidently about my plans. I’ll say things like, “I hope that next year I’ll have lost 50 pounds,” or, “if this works, I’ll make sure to keep on the program.” I won’t say, “when I lose this weight,” because deep down I am not sure it will really happen.

Using qualifiers like “if” is also a safety net because if I don’t lose the forty pounds, or whatever the goal is, then I didn’t really fail because I never really said I could do it anyway. The "I never care about it anyway" defense, introduced in school playgrounds everywhere. The more heart I put into something, the more disappointing the failure. 

Thus I’ll avoid that whole hypothetical scenario by never really believing I can do it in the first place, and expressing that doubt through statements that begin with “if” and, “I wish” or, “I hope.” So nobody needs to remember my grand declarations about working out at 5 am each day or only eating sweets on Thursdays, because there won’t be any.

It also works as self-deprecation when speaking to others. I don’t want to sound full of myself, like I’m so sure of my success that I’m buying smaller clothes or planning a post-goal weight vacation. Weight loss is a huge and difficult accomplishment, but it’s something at which most people fail. Therefore, I say “if” to avoid sounding conceited - like someone who is so sure they can succeed where most don't.

But it’s so unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with speaking confidently about something that, while difficult, is completely attainable and utterly in my control. I’m probably not going to start filling a “goal weight” closet, but I can do this small thing; I can be positive and try to get into a better mindset, one in which I’m confident about my capability.

A study or two has shown that optimism can actually help with weight loss - people who set higher weight loss goals and declared higher confidence in those goals lost more weight. The researchers hypothesized that the attitude helped people to see the weight loss as attainable, even inevitable.

From now on, for things like this - things completely possible and totally in my control - I will start saying “when.” If (when?) I slip up on this, feel free to let me know. But it’s a habit I want to form.

When I get to goal, when I weigh less than 150, when I lose all the weight, when I'm in maintenance mode, when, when, when. Why not? The only thing stopping me is me.