Sunday, April 27, 2008

Off the Wagon

Ugh. I fell off the wagon yesterday. After coming home from an extra large grocery trip (tying to buy enough for 2 weeks since I won't have time next weekend), I began the task of preparing my soup for the week, and chopping veggies for planned meals. Only this time, I also made two batches of cookies for some upcoming events. Well, it is just no good to make a cookie dough and not know what it tastes like! You need to make sure that everything is well mixed! And, of course you can't package them up for consumption by others without trying one yourself! And then there's the broken one, well that's just no good to anyone, so you better eat that too. Oops, this batch is a little bit burnt. Better check to see if they are still edible. Well, maybe they are edible enough for you to have them, but you shouldn't include these in the public batch...and so on.
So my industriousness turned into a binge of uncontrollable eating. And I didn't stop at the cookies. I had also bought ice cream - damn you, half price sale!! You see, it melted a little bit in the 10 minute ride home on the 80 degree day, and I love it when it is a little melted. (I am not usually patient enough to wait...)
Luckily, I was able to offset the damage a little bit - it was a beautiful day, so Adam and I took the bikes out. But, I was so out of control that I turned a good week into a bad one, just like that!
Today, I have come to my senses. I have only had one far...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stopping to Smell the Roses

On my extra long walk today, I took a route which winds around a school and past a little garden area. Lately, I have noticed that while walking past this particular spot, I would sense the odor of something very near raw sewage. I discovered today that the source is not sewage, but these innocent looking flowers. That’s right – these flowers smell like my butt. (This is not intended as a compliment to my butt. That is perhaps a blog entry best left untyped.)

I thought that I should do a little research on the plant, so that I could warn people. As a recent recipient of a free “Better Homes and Gardens” subscription, I realized that people put a lot of thought into the planning of their gardens. Having neither a home nor a garden, I was surprised to learn how much work is involved. So I can just imagine it – an unwitting home/garden owner decides to plant these stink weeds as the backdrop to their carefully landscaped masterpiece, only to discover their repulsive resemblance to refuse.

It turns out that these are a species of Hydrangea (hydrangea arborescens to be exact), and hydrangeas are actually a plant that I like. Of course, the ones I like come in white, pink, purple, or blue, and do not, so far as I can remember, smell like a butt.

So, all you gardeners out there - be sure to plant the lovely Hydrangea macrophylla, or perhaps the intriguing Hydrangea paniculata which has cannabis like effects when smoked (let me know how that turns out) and NOT the stinky and pollen infested hydrangea arborescens.

Maybe I should stick to weight loss research for the future??

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tailgate Tally

The tailgate tally was a success! Despite being extremely nerdy and a bit overly conspicuous, I was able to count my consumption by placing a dot with a sharpie on my wrist. Early in the day, I found myself tempted to have "just one" cookie, but I know that the average cookie is about 150 calories. These were not average cookies, but were a little oversized, so I am pretty sure they were more like 200 calories a pop. And oddly enough, I was successfully able to rationalize with my tummy - I decided to wait for the french fries and wings rather than eat the cookie.
I must say by the way, that this choice was not regretted - the wings were better than those served at most Maryland restaurants. Good job Uncle Tim!
So as usual, the geek attack has worked for me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gathering Will Power

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here in Maryland, and the forecast for State College tomorrow is just as good, with rain beginning in the evening. For those who have never lived in Happy Valley (again, I pretend that I have readers other than my family) it rains there ALL the time. Little umbrellas in the book bag are a necessity. But tomorrow should be optimal for beer consumption. I am pretty concerned about my will power for tomorrow, because it has not been all that stellar throughout the week. While planning, I neglected to remember an after-work meeting which is always accompanied by those little mini-quiches and weenies. (I don't actually like the weenies, but it is fun to say, tee-hee.) I naively told myself that I would not partake, but to no avail. It was as if those weenies marched right onto my plate. I ate three of them, and I don't even like the weenies. I also ate several quiches, and a few of the little mini-chicken quesadillas. In all, I managed to eat 600 calories. So much for will power.
On beautiful days like these, I also feel more like having a nice brew to relax after work - another thing I had thought I would give up in order to prepare for the required gorging tomorrow.
I did have a few triumphs. I managed to stay off the coffee all week, and I walked every day. Today, it was so nice that I walked the full hour at lunch. On my spreadsheet, these items are tacked on to the end - the coffee acts against me, but the walks act in my favor. I already go to the gym 3 times a week, so the walks are just a welcome bonus.
My recent weight loss was also noticed by a sort of stranger. We all have these sort of strangers in our lives, whether it is someone who attends the same church or the checkout person at the grocery store or even the neighbor we see daily while walking the dog. In this case, someone who goes to my gym mentioned that I must have lost a lot of weight, because my face looks thinner. I am not certain if she has me confused with another sort of stranger. Also, I am not really aiming to reduce the size of my face. But what the heck, I'll take it.
It is weird, but I am actually more inspired to continue trying to lose weight by the negative feelings I have - how I still have pants in my closet that don't fit, and how I still wear a size bigger than I'd like. This positive feedback has just made me want to get on the scale and see if it is true. I almost did it the other day, but I decided to wait for the doctor's visit I have scheduled for the 29th. I am worried that I will go into a minor depression when I find out...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tail Great

Oh Boy, it is going to be a tough week. The reason: a tailgate. For those unenlightened -- I of course am pretending at the moment that my readers are "virtual fans" rather than my family -- a typical tailgate menu consists of burgers, and beer, and cupcakes, and beer, and taco dip, and beer, and fried cheesecake, and crown royal, and sausage sandwiches, and beer, and french fries, and beer, and just about anything else - only no water (or ketchup). Oh, and did I mention beer? It is no exaggeration to say that the above list could represent my own personal consumption during past events. (Though I might drink more beer, and perhaps have more than one shot of crown royal. Oh wait, did I say perhaps?)
I have similar problems at parties, shin-digs, barbeques, buffets, hoe-downs, and hootenanies. Somehow, I am magnetically attracted to food, and despite a complete and total lack of actual hunger, I EAT. I have actually seen pictures to illustrate this phenomenon, taken at a friend's baby shower, where I strategically placed myself in front of a cookie sheet full of taco dip. One could arrange these pictures flip-book style and watch as the dip miraculously disappears. I have, of course, claimed that others had helped to eat the dip, but this is mostly a lie. True, other people may have had a bite or two, but for each bite by another, I had four. I was the only one in the room who did not have to leave my seat to eat the dip, and most did not get up while watching my friend open her gifts. The cookie sheet was easily half-empty after I had rampaged it.
I have very little control over this. As I say, the food just seems to come to me: I do not seek it out. Since beginning my diet, I have gone to several parties, and I have never successfully stayed within my goal. At our company's winter party, I planned for an embarrassing amount of calories (I cannot reveal this number - it is just too mortifying.) I will only say that I went over it by about 500 calories. And the worst part is that I thought I had done well, until I took inventory the next morning. (And by the way, the beer does not help the memory when trying to take stock.)
So, I have worked on a strategy in an attempt to reverse this crazy food attraction. I know that it seems very very geeky, but drastic times call for drastic measures. So I will be keeping notes as I eat (and drink). Don't worry, I have a high limit on the calorie consumption allotted - I will be giving up my snack for the week, and continuing with the coffee cut. I only hope that it is enough.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On Time

Another surprising mini-goal has been to get to work on time. "How are these things related?", you ask? Well, I found that packing my lunch, my breakfast, my snack, and my gym clothes was causing me to need a lot more rounding in my schedule. Like, the time reads 8:02, that's close enough to 8 in horseshoes and hand grenades, right? Well...then it started reading 8:06, and sometimes 8:12. It is not as though I have a boss who is breathing down my neck about it (heck, I do just as much rounding when leaving work or going to lunch). But, being late does cause added stress, and makes me forget to tend to my other important morning duties like feeding the cat or putting on nice earrings. (Do not worry - my cat could stand to lose a little belly fat herself, and when human #1 leaves without feeding her, she proceeds to bug human #2.) I found I was often leaving things behind in my rush to get my behind out the door, like the gym bag I had just packed, or the breakfast I had just made.
I try to allow for flexibility, but one reason this diet works for me is because I plan ahead, when I am thinking with my brain and not my tummy. When I forget a meal, I am forced to be hungry. And when I am hungry, the candy dish is enticing, the snack machine calls my name, and I am a sucker for the burrito place across the street. Likewise, when I forget a gym bag, I am not likely to make it to the gym. Go home first? And then leave? This plan of attack is effective only in theory, and has never been successful in lab trials, let alone real life.
So, every Sunday I make a list based on my spreadsheet which includes all my meals for the week. The list is on the fridge so I know what to pack each day. I also pack my gym bag for the next time as soon as I get back from the gym. I have a friend who packs her bag for the whole week, but alas, my gym bag (a free give away from an Orioles game) is not large enough to accommodate this.
This goal was a difficult one for me to meet. I have this weird "lateness" gene, inherited from my parents who made me wait for rides for hours at a time as a child. Even when it looks as though I will be on time, I find something to distract me enough so that I will not be on time. It is a gift. I did find that having a little foresight helped a great deal with my ability to remember my gym bag and my lunch...and most days, my brain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Break the Fast

Mini-goal number 2: Eat breakfast. Go figure: Snap, Crackle, and Pop were right. I was not in the habit of eating breakfast consistently when I began my program. I ate some days, and I just didn't have time on other days. Not eating this morning meal caused me to indulge more often in my addicting mochas, and to think about nothing but LUNCH for approximately 2 hours before LUNCH. Waking up earlier is not an option. I enjoy sleep, and I refuse to give any of it up. Instead, I began packing breakfast in addition to lunch and snack.
I actually took this one step farther, and began eating the whole day. On my spreadsheet, I call my meals "breakfast", "lunch", and "snack", but I normally eat half my "breakfast" first thing in the morning, and have the second half about two hours later...whenever I am hungry. About 2 hours after that, yay! It's lunchtime! I take my walk and try to delay lunch until 1pm. This helps fend off "the five o clock feeding frenzy" a little bit, and also allows me to peruse possible leftovers from vendor meetings. (If you work in a place that does not have vendors, I pity thee. These are people that give you a free meal, usually including a cookie, and all you have to do is listen to a presentation about their product. Even better are the occasions when you do not have to attend the presentation, but you get to enjoy the cookies and sandwiches left over after the meeting.)
Vendor meetings are extremely dangerous to a dieter. Even though you may have just eaten a perfectly fine meal, a confrontation with a chicken salad wrap and a chocolate chip cookie, free for the taking, will always end in disaster. I find that I cannot win this fight, so at least I wait until the meeting is over before eating my lunch.
My lunches all include a piece of fruit, which I eat around 2pm. Then I have my last meal, a snack, at 4pm. They say eating breakfast helps get the metabolism moving, and I hope that eating every two hours for the whole day achieves the same effect, though I think it is fairly obvious that I am not a dietitian or a doctor and pretty much feel that insides are inside for a reason - they are icky. I do know that this system works for me because I get hungry, and I eat. Not a lot, just enough to allow my thoughts to focus on something other than dieting. In the end, my overall calorie intake is smaller because denying the urge to eat only makes me want to eat more, and I give in to myself eventually. My belly can be very persistent.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cravin' the Coolatas

This mini-goal is perhaps not the best one for me to divulge first, because I have not been terribly successful at taming this Baer. Every day at work, I make a "poor man's mocha" which consists of our free (but awful) office coffee mixed with one creamer and a packet of Swiss Miss. In the past, I was drinking as many as three of these in an average day. I have switched to the "No Sugar Added" version of Swiss Miss, which brings the number of calories per cup to about 75, but these are completely empty calories which offer no satisfaction. Hence, I continue to crave more. You'd think caffeine was addicting, or something.
Anyway, the reason I have struggled with limiting and/or eliminating these empty calories, has been that I have no idea why I drink them.
Some possible reasons:
1) I am always freezing in the office, to the point where I literally wrap my hands around the warm cup as if it were a roaring fire (note - I would not recommend doing this with an actual roaring fire).
2) I am actually hungry. I often crave this concoction in the morning, and pour myself one before eating breakfast.
3) Hmm...I have no idea. Many times, I get up and pour this drink for no particular reason. Maybe I was on to something with that addiction idea - I wonder if the surgeon general knows about this.
I made a few rules, like no coffee before breakfast, and no coffee after noon. I promptly broke most of them. So, one week (week #4) I made it a goal to drink no coffee. It worked for a while. But last week, I was up to two cups a day on some days. And I don't remember being that cold. So this week (week #15) I have made it my mini-goal to have zero cups. While I am generally against self denial, it was just getting out of control.
Monday was challenging, to say the least. I would suddenly find myself in front of the Swiss Miss cabinet, coffee cup in hand, reaching for that inviting sugar packet, and it was like waking up from sleep walking. I had no idea how I had gotten there. It is so tempting to think how just one cup couldn't hurt in the long run, and how this was a stupid goal. Somehow, I managed to maintain self control, and headed back to my cubical with my empty cup. That night, I got home, ate dinner, and promptly fell asleep watching "Antiques Roadshow" which comes on at 8:00pm.
Tuesday was marginally better. I craved my fix in the morning, but the feeling was less intense. I still wonder how I managed to stick to the rules, considering I was the one who made the rules in the first place. But I consider it a matter of principle. Once the rules have been made, I shouldn't break them. So I found myself cursing "the man", in this case me, for not making the goal to have only 3 cups this week or something. Why did I decide to go cold turkey? Again, I managed to muster some will power, but I have no idea how.
Today, I don't think I had a single episode. I don't remember thinking about coffee once. I think I have this goal tackled. For now. Next week, I will probably allow myself a cup or 2, and so the cycle continues. But, as I said, I am not a proponent of self denial. At least I know that I have the ability to control this addiction, and I can enjoy a moderate amount if I try. I am almost guaranteed to meet my calorie goal too - I managed to cut 375 calories from my week.
My reward - a shopping trip with my sister on Sunday. Yay!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Looking at the Big Picture

I recently added a new tab to my file. I wanted to see how many weeks I was actually successful at meeting my two goals: to eat less, and to exercise more. This past week was a slight disappointment because I had no good excuse, like a holiday or a fun party, for my lack of restraint. It turns out, exactly half of my 14 weeks have been similar disappointments. However, I have still averaged 1614 calories over these weeks, and I have rarely exhibited enough self discipline to stick with anything for 14 weeks. I think I could do better, but I suppose I could do a lot worse.
For kicks, I visited my old fit day calender. For starters, it appears I managed to stick to the program for almost 3 weeks from late January 2007 to mid February so I have made definite progress in program longevity. I averaged 1792 calories in those 3 weeks. Compared to my last 14 weeks, in which my highest average was 1680 calories, I am not doing too badly. I have also averaged 4 times at the gym per week this year, and in those 3 weeks, it appears I lost interest in logging in the activities.
Looking at the big picture is interesting, and, in my case, gratifying - though not as gratifying as my recent trip to TJ Maxx, in which every pair of pants in my size fit. I haven't officially gone down a size, because I was never willing to admit a larger size last fall, though I should have. (I did try on one pair of capris in the next smallest size - while they did not fit well by any stretch of the fabric or strategic lighting, I was able to forcibly connect the button and zip up the fly.)
But, looking at the big picture in the beginning is overwhelming, and probably why most diets ultimately fail. I have taken a lot of good advice from "You - On A Diet" which suggests that weight loss is extremely personal, based on a person's habits, lifestyle, social standing (i.e. amount of money), and metabolism. To paraphrase, what works for me probably will not work for you, but I think it might be useful for me to focus in on the little picture (for me), and show you the process behind the progress. I find that focusing weekly on one goal (while keeping the over all goals in mind) has been my key - it keeps me from being intimidated by the daunting task at hand, and it keeps me interested for more than 3 weeks at a time. So, over the next few days, I will share some of my personal mini-goals, based on my past behaviors and inadequacies.
Looking at this week, it appears I will need to revisit a mini-goal: limiting my coffee intake.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My 93 Minute Commute

I had a bad day. It was actually something I noticed yesterday while in the shower, but today, I was in pain. An…icky sort of pain. As the afternoon progressed, I decided it was time for a little self diagnosis via the internet, and that was a huge mistake. My suspicion was that I had developed a common ailment that you think happens only to other people (correction: other older people). But I guess if it only happened to other people, they wouldn’t have so many commercials for Preparation H. Anyway, my advice to those who think they may need some of this concoction: do not research it. I winced through the description of symptoms (which I do not have all of). I covered my face and peered through my fingers at the screen as I read how they are officially diagnosed, and I nearly puked and cried at the same time as I viewed awful awful illustrations. I only made it through one sentence about the surgical procedures. I did not feel I could handle any more research, and I decided that some medicated wipes and some prune juice couldn’t hurt, despite my lack of all the symptoms (thank the lord). And, I figured I would take the opportunity to stop at the Rite Aid next to the liquor store and pick up a case of brew.

I left work at 5:08pm and arrived in the parking lot 19 minutes later at 5:27. I took a deep breath as I reached for my purse and realized it was still at work. This was extremely disappointing. If I had been there solely for the beer, I would have just gone home and resolved to get my purse the next day. But I had other purchases to make. So, 22 minutes later (5:49), I arrived back at work. Back on the road at 5:50, and at 6:08 I found myself back in the Rite Aid/Liquour Store parking lot. (Note that it only took 16 minutes the second time – at least I know which route is fastest.)

I figured I would get it over with and went to Rite Aid first, where I was confronted with an entire aisle dedicated to this ailment. It took me nearly 10 minutes to choose an appropriate medication, and another uncomfortable 8 minutes of standing in line behind a woman who apparently does all of her grocery shopping at Rite Aid – if half gallons of whoppers and packages of gummy worms could be considered groceries. At the liquor store, I chose a variety pack of Sam Adams Homebrew Winners (a grape pale ale – a substitute for fruit juice?).

Six minutes later, I was gratefully home at 6:42. The medicated pads seem to be working well, but don’t worry: I won’t keep you posted.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I Did NOT Just Eat That!

Dude! Seriously! It could not have been me who ate the rest of the icing from that tube. It must have been some one else. I mean, come on! "Icing" isn't even a food! It's like a condiment or something. And you're telling me I ate a quarter cup of it?? Really??

OK, OK. So I look it up. As anticipated, "icing" is not a food, and the search yields results like "cinnamon buns with icing" and "blueberry scones with icing" (mmm, that sounds tasty). I see a million desserts with icing. But what about the poor schlep who skipped the dessert and went right for the sweet stuff? So, I dig out the canister from the garbage and read the label: serving size, 2 Tablespoons. How many tablespoons did I eat? Like 4?

No way. 280 calories?? I did not just eat that! Poop. I think I did.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Walk the Line

If you haven’t heard all the hype about how walking improves your health, you are likely some sort of sea urchin or micro-organism without the benefit of television, radio, internet, magazines, books, or Oprah. Being a non-urchin, I too fell prey to the hype and began walking at least 4 times a week, 30 minutes at a time. Unfortunately, I added this goal the third week of the year. When it’s cold. And windy.
I thought it would take a lot of self control to stick to this, and so I decided a reward program was in order. For every four days of walking, I would earn a CD. So, I began.

Thus far, I have been relatively successful. I have weathered the cold and the wind, and I am enjoying the occasional whiff of spring these days. But I have learned a few lessons along the way which I have graciously decided to pass on to you, Constant Reader:

#1: There are not that many good CD’s available these days. My first few purchases were great: I got an excellent Neil Young and Crazy Horse release “Live at Fillmore East”, and the new Radiohead CD “In Rainbows” among others. But problems arose when I wanted to buy the new Kula Shaker CD, and the music store did not have the band listed in their database. Similarly with a Particle CD. The end result was that I bought a Herbie Hancock album which showed promise of rocking, and…it didn’t. I then bought another album that was a waste of money, and I realized that I just don’t want a new CD every week. I guess the point is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and you need to make your rewards a little more accommodating. It’s got to be relatively inexpensive since you’ll be buying it once a week, and not a detriment to the overall goal of losing weight (i.e. Tastykakes are not a good reward).

#2: Let yourself off the hook when confronted with precipitation. One Friday (a CD day), I emerged from my windowless cubicle and squinted at a gently falling snow in the parking lot. I decided to walk anyway, since it was not snowing much. Correction: it was not snowing much for a quick trip to the car, but for a half hour jaunt, it was snowing plenty. It took 3 hours for my pants to dry. Good thing that was the Neil Young week, or I would have been upset.

#3: Cover your ears. Yes, those headband things look silly, hoods block the vision, and many hats look ridiculous. Wear them anyway. Your ears may fall off otherwise. Seriously, it’s really painful.

#4: Bring a pair of sneakers. Again, even I know it’s unfashionable to wear sneakers with casual business attire. But I have nearly sprained an ankle on more than one occasion when I forgot to change my shoes.

#5: Wear headphones. Not only did I read that people who walked while listening to music benefited more, (I think they walked faster, or something) but there is the added benefit of not having to talk to people while you walk. I know this is uninviting to my fellow man, but honestly, most of the people who attempt to talk to me on my walks are a) offering me a ride, b) asking for directions to places directly in front of my face, but which I have never noticed before, forcing me to shrug my shoulders in ignorance, c) asking for bus change and/or cigarettes, and d) barking at me (presumably these little critters are dogs, but I have my suspicions.) So, don’t feel like you are missing much by enjoying a few tunes as you stroll.

All in all, I really enjoy my walks and I find that the walk is its own reward these days. It is a good time to get away from work and think about nothing for a while, and I usually feel refreshed. The hardest part was getting started.