Saying Goodbye to Summer, Looking forward to Fall

So I know we technically still have a few weeks left of summer, but I like taking this time of year to reflect on the past few months and to look ahead to the new season to come. 

But first, I’d like to share the verification of a non-scale victory that I mentioned in my last post!

NSV

Over the weekend, R and I decided to take advantage of the Labor Day sales. I desperately needed some new jeans so we headed over to Macy’s. I was hoping to get the same brand and style of the jeans I currently have. We found them. I grabbed a pair in a size smaller than what I’ve been wearing lately. I was a little bit worried that the smaller size wouldn’t fit yet. My current jeans are baggy, but I thought it might be due to all the washing and wearing since the scale hasn’t budged much over the past month and a half. But no! The next size down fit like a glove! On top of that excitement, they were hugely discounted so I bought two pairs. I’m now three pant sizes down from where I started in January. Now if only the scale would follow the lead…

I feel like I didn’t really take advantage of the summer as much as I could have this year. I only made it to the beach twice. I didn’t see any fireworks or go on any picnics. I did get to attend an impromptu barbecue at my aunt’s house in July, but overall it was a pretty laid back summer. I definitely enjoyed all of the relaxation and quiet time with my husband, but I’d like autumn to be a bit more active. 

I’ve got my brother’s wedding coming up at the end of September, but other than that there are no big plans on the horizon. I’d really like to go apple picking, visit Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, and go for a hike when the leaves start to change. I love so much about autumn: crisp, cool days; cozy sweaters, and warm drinks. I’m sad to see summer go, but am happy to welcome in a new season. What are you most looking forward to?

 

 

Zumba, Non-Scale Victories (NSVs), and other Fun Stuff

It’s super busy around here these days! I’ve got lots on the agenda, but wanted to come here and jot down a few things I’ve been proud of lately.

  • My new Zumba class is going well. So far I’ve only been able to make it on Saturdays, but it’s been a lot of fun and really kicks my butt! (See my Twitter feed for a post-class picture from Saturday). They are also affiliated with a spinning studio. I’m thinking I’ll give that a try one of these days as well.
  • R and I always sit in the front of our Pilates classes. On Sunday, we were the only two in the front and our teacher basically stood behind us to check on the rest of class as if she didn’t have to worry about our form! She even used us to demonstrate a few of the exercises.  I’ve definitely seen a huge difference in my core strength, so it was nice to have that progress more or less confirmed. On a side-note: I was secretly relieved that she wasn’t watching us so much, because my hamstrings and glutes were so sore from Zumba that I could barely do the bridge exercises! Phew.
  • Sunday afternoon I baked up some delicious chocolate peppermint cookies, using real peppermint oil, as a practice batch for a Great Big Oil Gathering that my friend and I are hosting on Friday. They turned out really well. The part to be proud of, though, was the part where I managed to not eat any batter and only have one cookie (one!). The best part was that I wasn’t even craving them or thinking about them once they were put away. I brought them in to work today and my office-mates have dutifully devoured them.
  • My “skinny” jeans refuse to stay around my waist and are too big in the thighs.
  • I’ve found a new allergy remedy using my oils! A drop each of lemon, peppermint, and lavender oil in a spoonful of honey gave me allergy relief for hours. It was pretty incredible. How nice to not have to deal with that hazy, tired feeling I get from my regular allergy medicine.

For the Love of Yoga

It’s been about six weeks since R and I joined our yoga studio and we are pretty much obsessed. I’ve been going five days a week: 2 pilates, 1 vinyasa class, 1 hot yoga class, and 1 yin and restore class. I’ve also added a 30-45 minute walking routine three days a week to make sure I get some cardio in. I was afraid that I would stop losing weight since I’m no longer doing Zumba (had to put my NYSC membership on hold in order to afford the yoga membership). Happily, I’ve discovered I was wrong. I’m down another six pounds!

I thought I’d break down the different types of classes to help anyone who might be interested in trying one out.

Pilates (at least the beginners class) involves all mat work, most of it lying on your back, focusing on working  your core. The moves are not complicated, but they can be intense. Most classes also involve some planks, possibly push-ups, and leg work. I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my core strength and posture.

Vinyasa yoga involves moving from one pose to the next at a fairly rapid pace. This class has a lot of sun salutations built into it. Personally, it’s my favorite class of the bunch. I love the rhythm of the sequences and the various challenges each pose presents. We’ve been working on the beginning steps for a crow pose and I actually managed to get the first few steps down after a few classes! Seeing myself improve in even small ways makes me excited to go back for more.

Hot yoga is insane. I honestly dread going each week and then can’t stop talking about how great it was and how much I loved it afterwards. Last night I actually made it through the entire class for the first time! This class involves 26 poses that you hold for a certain amount of time while sweating like crazy in a 105 (F) degree room for 90 minutes. This class definitely challenges you mentally as well as physically.

Yin and restore is a great way to end the work week. Yin yoga is a cooling yoga that involves only floor poses in a cool room. Rather than working your muscles, you focus on deep poses which benefit the connective tissue and joints. This class has taught me some great stretches for my hip flexors and piriformis muscles. Each pose is held for 5 minutes or longer. It’s another class that can be intense and challenging, but I always leave feeling super relaxed and re-invigorated.

Aside from the physical benefits of gaining strength, becoming more flexible, and losing weight, I’ve definitely noticed more emotional/mental benefits as well. I’m more patient with myself and others. I’m not as quick to react to stressful situations. My quality of sleep has improved, and I’m just generally happier and more peaceful on a daily basis. R has noticed similar benefits as well.

I would strongly encourage anyone who is thinking of trying yoga to do so. It might take trying out a few different styles and teachers to figure out which is best for you. For example, R doesn’t like vinyasa at all even after trying a few teachers so I go to that one alone. Just make sure you tell the teacher that you are new before the class starts. He or she should be able to give you tips and modifications for any pose that is challenging for you. The most important thing to remember is that your practice isn’t about anyone else but you and what you can do in that moment. It’s not a competition. It’s just you doing something great for your body, mind, and spirit.

16 Pounds Down: Lessons Learned

I hit the 16 pounds gone mark on Sunday! Skipping right over 15 pounds, I realized that I’m half-way to my first goal and a quarter of the way to my major goal. I have a feeling I’ll be adding a third goal after that, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself or overwhelm myself. 60 pounds is daunting enough!

So I thought this would be a good time to review what I’ve learned so far and what has been working for me. (Disclaimer: I am not a health care professional or fitness expert. This is simply what’s worked for me so far.)

  • Focusing on clean eating, with an emphasis on vegetarian dishes, leaves me feeling energized and happy. For me, this means eating mostly vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lean meats while cutting down on dairy (except for Greek yogurt) and white carbs (i.e. white bread and pasta). Kale has been my go-to veggie lately. I actually crave it when I don’t eat it for a few days.
  • Snacks are important. I generally have a handful of nuts around 11:00 a.m. and an apple in the afternoon along with some tea.
  • Drinking lots of water. It’s a habit I’ve had for years and I feel gross if I don’t drink enough each day.
  • There is no reason to be hungry. If I’ve eaten all my meals and snacks for the day, but am still hungry I’ll munch on some sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, tomatoes, pickled beets, orange slices, an apple, etc. As long as it’s real food (i.e. unprocessed) and low in calories I won’t let myself worry about it.
  • Portion control is important. I don’t track my food every day, but I do log a random day every few days to make sure I’m at least close to the range I’m aiming for. My Fitness Pal is a good app for that, although I think their calorie ranges can be a little too low. If the weight continues to come off, I don’t concern myself too much with being exact.
  • Leave room for treats. If I’m really craving something, I’ll let myself have it. I usually find just a little bit of whatever it is will satisfy me and I don’t feel resentful or deprived.
  • Think of food as a source of energy and healing. I really do see food in a different way now. It’s not a reward or a punishment. It’s just what I need to function and take care of my health.
  • Exercise is really important to me. Aside from the cardiovascular and possible weight loss benefits, I see exercise as a way to really connect with my body, to appreciate everything that it can do, and to be more comfortable in my skin. It also helps me to stop thinking about a million things and just focus on the moment for a bit. Zumba is my favorite form of exercise right now, but I also look forward to long walks with my husband, and an hour on the elliptical when there aren’t any Zumba classes.

And here are some progress pics! I definitely see a difference in the side view shots. While the before shots are from July 2012, I started my weight loss efforts in January 2014 at right around the same weight, so these are fairly representative of the situation. Here’s to more successes in the months to come!

July 2012

Before

3 Months (March '14)

3 Months (March ’14)

 

 

3 Months (March '14)

3 Months (March ’14)

Before (front)

Before (front)

Changing Relationships

A few days ago during my morning commute to work, I had a pretty amazing realization: I love my body, right now, just as it is, and I want to take care of myself in healthy ways in order to show that love. This may seem like a basic realization to some, but it’s the first time I’ve truly been in this state of mind.

In the past when I lost weight the drive and determination usually came from a destructive place. I wanted to lose weight because a certain guy told me I wasn’t thin enough for him, or I blamed my weight for the reason my life wasn’t how I wanted it to be, etc. This lead to serious calorie-cutting and over-exercise which just wasn’t sustainable. I would push myself hard and be angry that I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted fast enough. Then, exhausted and starving, I would give up and be even more angry and disappointed in myself.

Thankfully, over time, I got to a place where I stopped actively hating myself and reached a more peaceful level of begrudging acceptance. “I’m just always going to be overweight. It’s really not so bad. I’m still an attractive person.” Now, I’m not saying that acceptance is a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s pretty important if we want to live emotionally healthy lives.

But now, I feel that I’m in a place of actual love for myself. Instead of looking at eating more healthily and working out as some kind of deserved punishment, I see these things as ways to show myself that I care about myself. When I feel like I should skip a workout because I’m tired and my body needs a break, I don’t see that as a weakness that needs to be overcome. Instead I just enjoy the extra rest day and know that I’ll have an even better workout tomorrow. I actually listen to my body instead of stubbornly pushing myself to keep going when I clearly need a break.

My relationship with food has changed as well. As far back as I can remember, I was someone who would “sneak eat.” If there were treats in the house that I was told I shouldn’t be eating, I would steal one or two and eat them in my room or another place where no one would see. Even as an adult in my early to late twenties I would buy junk food, hide it my room, and eat it out of sight so I couldn’t be judged by a roommate. Looking back, I actually thought this was normal and that everyone did this! It wasn’t until I moved into my own apartment a few years ago that I was fully able to stop doing this. I would still buy a treat from time to time, but I taught myself to eat only a small portion every few days. Now my husband I don’t often keep treats in the house, but when we do we eat a little bit of it together and save the rest for later. What a difference it has made!

It took a lot of emotional digging and examining to get to this point, but I see that I’ve made some real progress. So much anxiety, insecurity, and longing for control contributed to the majority of my issues with weight and food. I deeply believe that this time around the weight will stay off and I will continue to be successful because I’m going slowly and taking the time to address the less visible, less tangible reasons for being overweight. It will be slow-going, but it will be worth it, I’m sure!

On Adjusting

The time change over the past weekend has really thrown me for a loop! Just as I was getting into actually sleeping for 7 to 8 hours a night, the leap ahead has got me all screwed up again. One day I will wake up during the week feeling rested and refreshed! It’s not so hard, right?

Another area where I’ve been forced to do some adjusting is in my running. I’ve been battling a tight hip flexor and lower back problems for a while now. My chiropractor had cleared me for running as long as I didn’t hurt myself, and I didn’t, until two weeks ago when I ran for 30 minutes continuously for the first time in months and ended up with a ton of pain in my left hip. It was so bad that I couldn’t sleep and a heating pad and pain killers didn’t help. I made an appointment the next day and was told that since my hip flexor and back are still out of whack I really shouldn’t run for at least 6 months. So there goes the Hot Chocolate 5K that I signed up for in April! Luckily I can still go to Zumba class and use the elliptical. I didn’t work out for a full week in order to heal, but everything has been fine since. I even managed to lose a few more pounds, so there’s that.

I’m actually not all that bummed about not being able to run. A few days before my injury I had told my husband that I wasn’t sure running is for me. I like the idea of running. I sometimes like the actual act of running, but mostly I dread it and put it off for as long as possible. Zumba class, on the other hand, is something I look forward to all week long. Right now, I only go on Saturdays and Mondays, but I may add in a Thursday class on my lunch break in the summer.

I can finally see that my body has gotten a little smaller. Two weekends ago I went shopping for new jeans. My old pairs had holes in the thigh and were hanging off of me. When I tried on a pair of skinny jeans in a size smaller than usual I was elated that they fit like a glove and looked pretty good. I only got one pair since I will be going down in size again not too long from now (I hope). It’s nice to be able to see the progress on my body and not just on the scale. I plan on continuing this downward trend for as long as possible!

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When Life Throws You for a Loop

Aaand we’re back!

I truly didn’t think it would take me almost seven months to return to a state of normalcy, but here we are. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my family, and life in general during this unbelievably difficult time. I know it’s such a cliche, but you really do discover who your friends are and who you can count on in times like this. My father’s death brought about a lot of changes – mostly good- for all of us. My brothers and I are a lot closer now, which is nice. One of them got engaged in September and I was asked to be the matron (what a horrible word!) of honor. My husband has been an amazing source of strength and sanity as I unravel the millions of responsibilities I have as the executrix of the estate and as I worked on closing my father’s practice from about a hundred miles away. There are a lot of opportunities for changes on the horizon now, and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of them one at a time.

The one thing that has surprised me the most is my resiliency. As a teenager and young adult I periodically battled depression. Even in my late twenties/early thirties there were some periods of struggle. These past few months, though, have not been as bad as I feared. I have some seriously low and dark days, of course, but I’ve been able to keep going and actually enjoying life along the way.  I think one of the keys was recognizing the value in really taking care of myself and giving myself whatever I needed to heal. I took a first degree Reiki training course which has helped me both physically and spiritually. I bought myself a membership to a spa so that I can get a monthly massage. My husband and I went on a mini-vacation to Atlantic City at the end of the summer. I’ve allowed myself to say no to things I just didn’t feel like doing and to be a homebody as much as I wanted/needed. Showing myself some real compassion has been pretty eye-opening.

Through all of this, I only gained about five pounds. In January, I re-committed myself to getting healthy. I’ve been working out between 4 and 5 days a week. I found an amazing Zumba class that I absolutely hate to miss. I’m training for another 5k in April. (Side note: I ran/walked an Electric Run 5k in September which was a ton of fun!) I’ve been eating clean about 80% of the time and I’ve lost eight pounds since the beginning of January.

I hope to be back here regularly. I feel like I have a lot to share and I want to keep a record of when I meet the various goals that I have set (more on that later).  I also really enjoy the inspiration I find in reading about other people’s journeys. Here’s to more blogging in 2014!