Saturday, June 28, 2008

Criticism...It Sucks, Doesn't It?

I must be PMSing. Wait, no…it’s just the way I am.

Someone described my arms as “chicken wings” the other day and I got pissed and actually cried. Not much – just a little tear in the corner of my eye accompanied by a big lip, but still. I freaking cried! Why would something as silly as my arms being described as chicken wings make me cry?

Maybe it’s because when I went to the zoo earlier in the day with my daughter and granddaughter, I saw the elephants and observed their skin and realized that I have similar wrinkly skin patterns in the crease of my arms and I got sad that I missed the boat on smooth, even skin because I spent so many years overweight and obese.

Flog, flog, flog.

The same thing happened when my legs were described as “toothpicks” on national television. I heard it as a criticism, as something about me that didn’t satisfy someone else. This has been a pattern all my life. God forbid something about me is flawed and people notice.

Being overly critical of myself is selfish in many ways. The energy I spend worrying what people think of me could be better spent cultivating compassion for others and helping people feel better about themselves. I’m working on it, though, and hope that by writing about it, I’m encouraging my readers think more deeply about how they address criticism.

I’ve written further about criticism as a whole over on ZenBagLady if you want to check it out. (There’s a bonus photo of the lovely Miss Claire there, too.) I’d love to hear from you, about how you deal with criticism as it pertains to your body as it is, was and will be. How do you handle it? What do you blow off and what do you take personally? Most importantly, WHO is doing the criticizing most of the time – you or someone else?

I’ll take my chicken wings and toothpick legs over the kind of pain and dissatisfaction I felt about myself at 300 pounds, but my reaction to these descriptions is a good reminder to me that my life didn’t become perfect at goal. Many of our demons follow us down the scale.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And Then There Are Those Days….

Ever have those exercise moments when you are SOOOOO in the zone, SOOOO with the rhythm of the movement that you don’t want it to end? For every three, nine or maybe 25 times I’m on the elliptical or bike or arc trainer thinking, “OK, five more minutes. I can do FIVE more minutes,” there is one completely pure Zen moment of, “God this feels good….I don’t want to stop.”

That’s what happened today. I plan my weekly workout schedule usually on Sundays, and this week had “penciled in” a 15-minute warm-up before a 45-minute strength training routine for today. But once on the elliptical, I fell into a groove. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the day off yesterday, but I felt fabulous. So I cranked that sucker to a high incline and stayed there way longer than usual.

I’d still be on it probably if I didn’t have, well, a LIFE.

After the longer-than-usual workout, I showered and went to a friend’s house. We went for a walk through the woods and then walked one of her neighbor’s dogs because his owners are on vacation. My friend lives on one of the most beautiful pieces of land in western Pennsylvania and is surrounded by woods and hills and the most beautiful wild flowers. Even though I’d had a near cosmic experience on the elliptical earlier, nothing could replace the walk with her today, both for the natural beauty and the time talking to one of the most important people in my life.

It made me realize that exercise is a lot of things. It’s not just sweating or agony or numbing out. Look around you the next time you’re in the heat of it. Who’s there? What’s there? What do you see outside the window or to your left and right? Yes, we exercise to improve our bodies, but surely there is another reason. Surely there is something else that keeps us coming back to it.

When I ride my bike along the bike trails or go canoeing or hiking, I’m not thinking, “Gosh, this is helping me keep my weight off.” I’m thinking on a totally higher plain.

Am I alone in this? Tell me….what goes on in your head when you’re moving?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life and Vitamin D

I’m sitting outside on the porch on an old white-painted bent-branch chair, my laptop’s perched on my lap, there’s thunder rumbling in the distance, and I just ate a pickle. My dogs are afraid of thunder and so they’re lying around my feet. Our female dog, Mathilda, has a nervous stomach and it’s making all kinds of gurgling noises. I empathize. My stomach turns upside down when I’m stressed, too.

I’m eating colors tonight. I just had green beans and green peppers while waiting for the carrots and squash to roast. Wearing my 2002 glasses because I can’t find the other ones, I’m monitoring the plastic bowls sitting on my living room floor filling up with water dripping down from the ceiling. If I thought food and gas was expensive, wait until I get the estimate on a new roof.

I’m really missing missing George Carlin right now.

I just took my third calcium/vitamin D tablet of the day. Can they BE any bigger and harder to swallow? Anyway…I have a vitamin D deficiency and the more I read about vitamin D, the more I realize how important it is. Check out this article on CNN: “Vitamin D is hot! Here’s how to get it.” I’m still period free – 17 months and counting – and my doctor is concerned my lack of vitamin D could be the culprit, given everything else checks out just fine.

Who knows?

The lightening is kind of scary now and so I’m moving back inside. There’s a cutie foreign guy named Sven on “Jeopardy”. I think I need to check him…I mean the show out. Just wanted to give you a heads up on vitamin D. And my leaky roof. Life in general.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Hope You're Keeping Records!

The scale is a useful tool, but if that’s the only tool we use to measure our weight-loss successes, we’re missing out on a lot of exciting NSVs (non-scale victories).

I’ve kept certain medical and weight-loss related data on an Excel spreadsheet since May 2005. I update it every six months when I see my doctor (she keeps close tabs on my “numbers”), and every few months I update my waist, hip and chest measurements, BMI, and body fat percentage.

In May 2005, four months after I started losing weight, my cholesterol was 253. Broken down, my LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) was 160 (recommended level is a reading less than 100) and my HDL (the “happy” cholesterol) was 47 (recommended level is 30-85, with a reading above 60 being optimal). My triglycerides, which should be less than 150, were 267. Keep in mind that these readings were MUCH better than they were six months prior. My triglycerides alone had soared past 300 and my sugar levels were as close to diabetic as you can get without going over.

The first time I took my body measurements was in April 2006, more than a year after I started losing weight. Prior to that, I was so deep in denial over numbers that even stepping on the scale was emotional torture. No way was I going to wrap a measuring tape around my body. It was bad enough I had to see my body in the shower. I wasn’t going to get naked and allow yet another number make me feel even worse. (Yes, I really hated my body that much. I’ve done a lot of psychological homework in the last few years to change that attitude and I’m glad to say I can now appreciate who I was and what I looked like much more than I could at the time.)

In hindsight, I wish I’d have recorded my waist, hip and chest measurements when I weighed almost 300 pounds. I wish I hadn’t been so freaked out and in denial. Alas, I only have a ballpark guess of what those numbers were. Given that I was wearing a size 30W (3X) and the largest bra I ever bought was a 46C and it was uncomfortably small, I can assume my bust was probably around 48-50 inches, my waist somewhere around 46-48 inches and my hips close to 56 or 57 inches. I have one article of clothing that I kept from that time: a sad pair of black stretch pants, size 3X, riddled with stains and a few holes, and the elastic is coming out of the seams. They were the only pants I wore, day in and day out. They reflect the way in which I cared for myself back then. Some day I might do a whole-body-in-one-leg photo, but it’s still difficult for me to look at them, let alone put them on.

Enough of that. Let’s get back to the measurements.

Looking back on the numbers helps me, in maintenance, to stay real about where I was and how far I’ve come. Something interesting I noticed yesterday as I was looking through my spreadsheet was how quickly I lost inches when I joined the gym in late September 2006.

I’d started walking for exercise in April 2006 and my measurements were 44-38-49 and I weighed 187. In September, five months later and just before joining the gym, they were 41-36.5-45.5 and I weighed 164. Two months later, after adding strength training to my routine and upping my cardio routine by implementing the elliptical and bike, and by walking at higher inclines on the treadmill, my measurements were 39-33.5-42.5 and I weighed 152.7. While the scale moved at a respectable rate, what really improved were my measurements. Eight inches gone in two months!

I was also thrilled to see my blood work numbers continually improving as well. Today, my cholesterol is 175 (LDL at 100, HDL at 70), triglycerides are 60 and my BMI is 21.1.

The challenge now is keep those numbers steady. I’m still a sucker for a good NSV, so I think I’ll take my arm measurements. Since I upped my strength training routine, I’m noticing some bulging biceps that I think need a number.

FYI: If you want to read about how I decided my weight-loss goal, click on over to Refuse to Regain to read my latest blog over there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Gift from the Gods: Greek Yogurt

The price of gas seems a real bargain when compared to the cost of a 16-ounce container of organic Greek yogurt.

I love the self-checkout at Giant Eagle, the grocery store I go to in Pittsburgh when I don’t have time to get to Trader Joe’s. The computer tells me, in a very pleasant, friendly voice, how much each item costs, and, in the case of fruits and vegetables, exactly what the food is. For instance, if you set a Vidalia onion on the scale and punch in the product code, the computer will say, “Please move your Vidalia onions to the belt.” Good thing it only announces fruits and vegetables and not condoms or Preparation H! Although I wonder if it would make more people wake up to what’s really in their carts if the computer were to announce all their food purchases out loud. “Please move your Pepsi, Tostitos, Cheez-Wiz, donuts, Cocoa Krispies to the belt.”

Sadly, I doubt it.

Anyway, I can’t buy Greek yogurt anywhere in Podunkville, so I stocked up yesterday at Giant Eagle. Thinking the tag in the yogurt section read 2 for $4, I put two large tubs in my cart. When I scanned a tub at the checkout, the computer said, “Five ninety-nine.”

“What? I thought this stuff was two for $4,” I told my daughter. I ran the second tub through and it said the same thing, “Five ninety-nine.”

“You don’t have to keep it,” said my daughter.

But sadly I did. Have to keep it, that is. You see, I’m hopelessly in love with Greek yogurt. It surely comes from the gods on Mount Olympus. Thick, delicious and packed with protein, Greek yogurt is what makes a good smoothie fabulous.

When I broke it down unto servings, it “only” costs $1.49 per half cup – a justifiable amount – and I now have eight (well, actually seven since I just had a smoothie for breakfast) servings in my refrigerator. I’ll be sure to use every single serving before the expiration date sometime in July.

Oh who am I kidding? That stuff will be gone in a week.

On to another subject: Summer salads. Why don’t we make them in winter? This one, especially. Grocery stores carry cukes and red onions in December. I’m reprogramming my salad mindset and keeping this recipe, courtesy of my little sister, in mind on cold winter days. The crunch, sweet and sour satisfies three of my four most common cravings (bread-like substances being the fourth).

THAI CUCUMBER SALAD

2 English cucumbers - the long, skinny ones wrapped in plastic – or 3-4 regular cucumbers, seeded or not, whatever you prefer
1 large red onion, halved, then sliced
¾ cup of seasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup water
1/3 cup sugar - this is to taste, so start out slowly, but the brine should be slightly sweet
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vegetable oil

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and slice. Place cucumbers and sliced onions in a bowl. Mix dressing ingredients in a separate bowl, holding off adding the oil until the very end as to be sure the sugar and salt has dissolved in the vinegar and water. Pour dressing over the cucumbers and let marinate at least overnight, but the salad gets better as it sits longer.

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If you want to read about my latest exercise discovery, “run” on over to my ZenBagLady blog.

And….if you’re into all things maintenance, check out my new website over at Refuse To Regain.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sudden Heart Attacks Really Do Break Hearts

As are so many people, I am stunned and saddened by the death of NBC’s Washington bureau chief and “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert. He was one of the few journalists I trusted.

Russert died of a sudden heart attack, which on average kills 850 Americans a day. While he’d been diagnosed and treated for several heart disease-related ailments, a piece of plaque on his artery walls fractured and caused a coronary thrombosis. Newsweek.com posted an article describing the kind of heart attack that killed Russert. Click here to read it.

Russert’s death will probably heat up the weight and diet debate in this country, but will Americans seriously examine their diets and sedentary lifestyles as a result? My guess is, sadly, no.

My father had two heart attacks the summer of 1986. The first one was a “baby” heart attack, more of a foreshadowing of the big one a few weeks later.

I’ll never forget that night. Mom called me at 2 a.m. from the hospital saying dad had another heart attack and was in the ICU. My sister, who lived in Virginia at the time, was in town on business and I called her at her hotel. I picked her up and we went to the hospital. Seeing my father – my strong, handsome, 55-year-old father – laying helpless on a gurney and weeping as doctors and nurses fussed all around him was the most scary and sad moment of my life.

Dad lived, and the week that ensued, doctors put a stent in one of his coronary arteries because it was almost completely blocked. While diet played a role in his condition, Dad also smoked, was overweight, had a stressful job, and didn’t exercise. Once home, he changed his diet and quit smoking. He never got the drive to exercise, though. Now 78, he finally takes walks with my mom, but he took up smoking again several years ago and is now diabetic. I love my dad very much, but he’s complicated and frustrating sometimes.

Because heart disease clearly runs in my family, it was primarily that risk that drove me down the scale the last time. My triglycerides were over 300 and my cholesterol levels weren’t far behind. My sugar levels were out of sight, too, and it was a matter of time before I developed diabetes. Losing weight brought all these numbers down to normal and low ranges, but I will have to work diligently all my life to keep them that way.

I am so sad for all the people Tim Russert leaves behind. I am sad for the families and loved ones of the 850 other Americans who die every day from sudden heart attack. I hope Tim Russert’s death will not be in vain. I hope people who aren’t paying attention to their health will finally get serious and change their lives around. If not for themselves, then for the people who love them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Clothes Make the Workout

You know what’s sexy? Weight-lifting gloves. The black Velcro-y ones with the fingers cut out and that wrap around your wrists all tight and secure-like. I like wearing them more than a little black dress. I don’t care that no one sees me wear them. It’s how they make me feel, all fit and buff, like I know what I’m doing. Which I kind of do, but in this case, "the clothes make the man.” LOL

I work out mostly at home, but I go to the rec center once or twice a week. One reason I like to work out at in public is because I’m challenged there by the people working out around me. In a recent study, exercisers who worked out next to people they felt were in better shape than they were had a 10-20 percent better workout because they were psychologically challenged to work physically harder. That’s the kind of kick in my seat I need once in awhile. As I wrote about in my blog called "Kicking It Up A Notch" over on Refuse to Regain, it’s easy to get complacent.

Besides the gloves, I have a few shirts I like to wear that emphasize certain arm muscles and shorts that de-emphasize my tummy skin. As I said, even when I’m by myself, I like to see my body in its best light. I spent so many years avoiding mirrors and denying what my body looked like that I’m trying to reclaim it, get to know it, every last inch – flaws and all.

Do you ever wonder if you’re affecting other people when you work out? Are you aware of people around you? Do you like to wear certain articles of clothing when you work out that make you more psyched for your routine? I look forward to the discussion!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Body Victories

Over on my other blog, Refuse to Regain, my web partner Barbara asked readers what kinds of things they could do with their reduced bodies that they couldn’t do before. I’ve thought about it a lot since she posed the question and it seems every day I add things to my list – some very small and some quite significant.

I’m calling my list “Lynn’s Body Victories.” Entries include the obvious ones like fitting in the bathtub and sitting on my husband’s lap without suffocating him. However, I’ve also added a few less obvious ones, things I’d forgotten I couldn’t do or hadn’t paid close attention to until Barbara asked the question. I wanted to share a few of them with you in hopes that you’ll collate your own list of Body Victories and add to it at every step of your weight loss and maintenance journey.

The last few days have been a steam bath here in western PA. Temps in the upper 80s and low 90s with high humidity. I used to hate summer at any weight over 200 pounds. Absolutely dreaded it. Nothing put me in a bad mood faster than the heat. Anything above 85 degrees was a challenge to my respiratory system and sweat glands. It took a lot to cool me off. When most people went on vacation, I planned my activities around places with air conditioning. I avoided, as best I could, amusement parks, zoos, or any place where I had to walk in the sun. I was miserable and sad when it was hot and humid.

This latest heat wave, though, reminded me that the last few summers haven’t been so bad. In fact, I like being warm. I don’t mind sweating. I enjoy sitting on the porch in the afternoon and the deck in the evenings. I don’t want to be inside in the air conditioning. I prefer to sleep when it’s cool and so I sleep with the air on when it’s warm and muggy at night, but my days are better now a million fold.

One of the little things I added to my list was painting my toenails. I remember very well the days when that wasn’t comfortable or even possible. Bending over when my stomach was so large cut off my breath. Hardly worth pretty toenails. It was a pleasure to give myself a pedicure last night on the deck.

Lastly, I wore spandex bike shorts on our bike ride this morning without covering up with a loose pair of shorts. Even last year I wouldn’t have worn spandex in public because I thought, “What would people think if they saw my loose inner thigh skin? They’d react in shock and horror, no doubt!” So silly. This year, I don’t give a crap what people think about me in spandex. In fact, I’m only concerned how I feel in spandex and I think I look pretty darn good. Body Victory!

At the 8-mile mark of the particular ride my husband and I did today, the point at which we turn around and head back, there’s a significant hill. We downshift to a low gear and peddle our legs off. At the top, we’re breathing hard, reaching for our water bottles and feeling pretty damn good because we know we saved the best for last: coasting down the hill we just climbed. As I soared down that hill this morning, the wind in my face and my tires whirring under me, I celebrated the hill I climbed to lose 168 pounds because it’s been worth every fun downhill glide since then.

What’s on your Body Victory list? What do you hope to add to your Body Victory list?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Suggestions for the Blog Roll

I'm finally getting caught up on my favorite blog reading, and I've also discovered a few new ones that I really like, too.

First up, Muata Kamdibe. He was recently featured on FitNation over on CNN, same place I was back in February. His website, Mr. Low Body Fat's Blog, is very motivating, not to mention Muata is easy on the eyes ;)

Next, DietGirl. I was THRILLED when Shauna Reid posted a comment yesterday on our Refuse To Regain blog. Shauna is the author of "The Amazing Adventures of DietGirl!" and the blogger in charge at DietGirl. Shauna is a fabulously successful maintainer, plus she has a great sense of humor. She reminds me that I don't have to be so freaking serious about weight all the time.

Who are your must-read weight-loss or maintenance bloggers? Any informational websites you visit often? I'd love to expand my blog roll to include some of your favorites. As always, post a comment or send me an email.

Thanks!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

My Bracelet

A lot gets written by people who are losing or who have lost weight, me included, about their clothing sizes and how great/wonderful/awesome it is to get to a certain size. But I thought today, as I was working out with my hand weights: what about the jewelry?

I don't like to wear much jewelry. On the rare occasion when I put in earrings, I develop an infection once I take them out. My wedding ring is bent out of shape because of the 25-pound weight I hold when I do a particular ab set because I always forget to take it off.

I do, however, wear a braided white gold bracelet on my right arm. My daughter gave it to me when I was 300 pounds. I couldn't wear it then, but I'd try it on periodically, as I lost weight, and once it fit, I never took it off. Wait. I take that back. I took it off on Oprah because they asked me to. But I slipped it into my boot and put it back on as soon as the taping was over.

That bracelet is a constant reminder of where I've been and where I am. It dangles on my arm with every movement, like a whisper in my ear: "I will always fit your wrist if you stay the course and treat yourself with respect."

My massage therapist moves it aside when she works my arms. I let it roll back and forth when I lift weights. It doesn't match every outfit I wear, but I don't care. It's a symbol, like a tattoo, and I love how it feels rolling around on my wrist.

My wedding ring is an important symbol, too, albeit not because of weight loss, but because of love. I had it re-sized at every significant weight loss because I couldn't be without it. I went from a size 9 finger to a 5, and the gold is probably very worn and couldn't stand much more sizing, but I needed it there on my left hand to remind me that my best friend was always rooting for me.

Next up, I have to re-size my mother's ring. My kids bought it for me when I weighed 260 or so, and it's too big for my ring finger yet too small for my middle or index finger. I'm feeling a strong need to wear it, though, so one of my errands this week is to our jeweler downtown.

Do you have jewelry like that, too? Is there some significant piece you like or need to wear?

P.S. I didn't feel as ooogie watching Oprah today as I did in November. Whew!!