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MyFitnessPal rocks

About a week ago, I suggested to a friend of mine the idea of finding online accountability for healthy eating and exercise because I knew there were a ton of free resources out there and her current in-person accountability might be in jeopardy. Before I knew it she had sent me a link to join her over at MyFitnessPal and I have been obsessed ever since. Well, not really, but you know what I mean ;-)

The site allows you to track your calorie intake and exercise expenditures based on your current weight and your goal (lose, maintain or gain) and interact with other people that you become “friends” with on the site. It’s like Facebook meets Weight Watchers! You even have a news feed :)

Since I am happy where I am and no longer own a scale, I chose maintenance and my calorie goal actually made sense (usually the ones these sites give me is too high, in my opinion).  I haven’t actually been tracking calories for a long time so that wasn’t a priority for me but this site measures so more than that.

Much like the old MyPyramid (now MyPlate), it gives you a nutrient breakdown for the day and shows you where you may be lacking in some areas. Because I am vegan, I keep an eye on vitamin D and calcium since I don’t get those from eating dairy products like many people do. Also, I like to stay low on sugar because my body operates better that way.

I haven’t made any changes to my diet, but the program is definitely motivating me not to go back for a second snack at night and in the 5 days I have been tracking, I have drank more water than I have in a long time! Something about being able to “click” off another glass is fun to me and having that visual reminder is very helpful.

I am also really thankful for this site because it allows me to be part of the process that my friends are going through on their own weight loss journeys. I am glad that I can provide them with accountability and encouragement, plus they probably don’t know this, but being able to see how they are doing is very motivating to me as well. It reminds me of what I went through, how far I have come and how I never want to go back to being who I was before I made myself get healthy.

Just wanted to share this with you all. It’s a great site and I know there are many others out there like it, but this one stands out to me.

There is also an app for most smart phones. The one for Blackberry is decent, I can enter food, water and exercise on there but can’t see what my friends are doing or any of the message boards. However, the iPhone app seems wonderful for all of you who have one (I’m only a tiny bit jealous).

Focus on your strengths

For those of you who may be new to my blog, you may not know that from 2007-2008, I lost 70 pounds through my own hard work and lifestyle changes. When I was getting ready to turn 25, I found that I just wasn’t happy. Sure, I was married to a great guy, had a good job and managed to have a social life with my wonderful friends. But I did not like myself. The way I looked, the way I felt, nothing. So I worked hard and I changed.

But, ever since I reached a certain point on the scale, I’ve been obsessing (off and on) about how to get past it. I never really reached my original “goal” weight but I got to a comfortable point and never made it any further. When the number doesn’t go down, I get frustrated and think I’ve failed somehow. Then there are some times when that number starts to creep up and I get worried, especially when my clothes start to get tighter. So I refocus, get those few pesky pounds off and I’m back to where I was. This especially happens in the summer, I’ve come to refer to it as my “summer fluff.”

I know a lot of people think maintenance is easy but I do not. I feel like it has been a much harder struggle than weight loss ever was for me. Maybe that is because it’s been so long ago now that maintenance mode has just taken over. But I feel like every choice I make is important and if I don’t want to end up back where I was in pre-2007, I have to always be working hard at it. Partially, that is true. But I also need to stop putting so much pressure on myself. Because I know me and when I’m under pressure, it’s no good. It doesn’t motivate me, it breaks me down.

So, recently I have ceased weighing myself. I think it’s been well over a month since I’ve stepped on any scale. While I’ve given up weighing before, this time I feel like I really don’t care what I weigh anymore. Not in a “I’m giving up” way but in a “I’m breaking free from this torture” way. If I’m still wearing the same clothes I was after my initial weight loss, if I feel good and if I can be comfortable where I am, then why does it matter if I weigh one number or another? Why am I always trying to improve when I’m perfectly fine where I am?

I have also realized that by always being focused on calories, weight, exercise, that I am missing so much of the rest of my life. Did I mention I’m turning 30 next year? ;-)

If I’m being real with myself, I have to remember that I originally sought to lose weight for health reasons. I was sick, borderline everything and only 25 — a scary situation. These days, I am very healthy, all of my numbers are in the optimal ranges and my doctors are always impressed with my diet and workout regimen. So why do I care that I don’t have a flat stomach? Why do I care that I never got out of a certain “decade” in weight numbers? None of those things are health-related anymore.

I think some of it is comparing myself to others, seeing people my same age and height that weigh a lot less than I do. Some of it is the media I’m sure, even though I like to deny that one a lot. Some of it is my natural perfectionism. I am my own worst critic sometimes. But I’m making some great progress!

I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this but I had a real breakthrough when my friend Stephanie posted the following statement on her blog: “in my head, i’ve always admired very lean women, with their flat stomachs, small chests, and perfect pencil legs. but in my heart, i realize that’s not me, and i’m better learning to love what i do have than longing for what i don’t have.”

It was like the light shone down from above and the chorus sang “Hallelujah!” I had a major revelation about myself thanks to some thoughts from a friend about her own situation. This is why blogging is great and why we need to communicate with each other through this medium.

Little by little, I am learning to embrace who I am, my life, the body that I have and you know what? It’s great! Instead of wanting to be the next size down, I love my size. I also love that I have to buy one size at one store and a different one at another because clothes are made differently and I am not shaped like anyone else but me. It’s okay that I can’t wear low rise jeans, really. It’s better to wear what is flattering than to try to hide what is not in order to be trendy.

So if you’ve ever felt this way too, my advice would be this: instead of focusing on the things we don’t have or what we do have that we don’t like, we need to start focusing on our strengths. I’ll go first.

I may not have a flat stomach but I have incredible arms! Stuff may jiggle in places I don’t like but darn it, I have completed 5 half marathons, I still work out 5 days a week and I feel incredible! I am also feeding my body the healthiest diet I know and still allowing myself the occasional splurges (I heart french fries). I may never wear a two-piece but my doctors say I am very healthy!

Does it get any better than that? I think not :)

Thank God for June

I don’t know about you, but I seriously could not be happier that it’s June!

May was a crazy busy month for me and I am ready for things to slow down a bit. Except that they aren’t. In fact, I started Summer classes yesterday! I’m starting a Bible study group tonight. My eyes are already tired from all the reading. Not to mention trying to keep up with healthy eating and exercise!

But I’ll be on more of a schedule, which helps me stay on track in a lot of areas.

Speaking of being on (or off) track, I can already tell that my dreaded, regular Summer weight gain is already creeping in on me. I don’t know specifics, other than the past few weeks I’ve gained at Pound for Pound weigh ins (which I skipped this week). But yesterday, I put on my loosest pair of pants and they are a bit snug.

Ever since July 2008 when I went to Nicaragua, I have trouble keeping my weight down in the Summer. It’s funny because I think most people have the opposite problem, gaining weight during the holidays and wintertime. But not me.

I think this happens for a lot of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • It’s hot outside and non-dairy ice cream and sorbet taste really good.
  • I don’t run as much due to the heat and limited access to treadmills at work.
  • Life gets really busy and stressful and therefore I console myself with food.
  • Birthdays, anniversaries, out of town guests, and lots of other exciting things (revolving around food) happen over the Summer.

Hmm…

The good thing is that technically Summer hasn’t officially started yet (June 20th) and today is June 2nd. It’s also a new month which always inspires me to get re-focused on my goals. I hope to approach things differently this time, as I think there is no sense in me throwing myself back into “weight loss mode” because I just don’t like being there.

I don’t want to say things like “I need to lose x number of pounds in x number of weeks.” That’s just not realistic for me anymore. I don’t even really care about the numbers. I just want to feel good, be confident and for my pants to fit better.

I talked to my friend Kim yesterday (who always encourages me) and told her that I need to do this without resorting to calorie counting. This did work for me when I went through my big weight loss, but it’s just too time consuming now. As you can tell, I’m busy enough as it is!

She reminded me of a few keys to getting back to my happy place:

  • Only eat when you are hungry
  • Eat fruits & veggies for snacks when possible
  • For goodness sakes sloooooow down when eating

It’s true. I’ve been known to inhale a Jimmy John’s vegetarian sandwich in 5 minutes flat, in the car, on the way to a friend’s house because I was short on time. While it’s good that I don’t skip meals for being too busy, I’m still cheating myself by woofing them down.

Finding time to exercise is also going to be a challenge these next couple of months but thankfully, I’ve just received ownership of Josh’s gym card because he just wasn’t using it anymore. It’s going to take some effort on my part to get out of bed an hour earlier and get to the gym before work but the benefits will make it all worth doing.

For more on my fitness experiences, check out my other blog River City Fitness.

So that’s it folks! No diets, no counting, no heavily detailed journaling. Just fresh healthy eats, mindfulness, taking my time/being patient and plenty o’ exercise. Let’s do it!

Pound for Pound: Week 8

Check out my guest post over at Namaste Mari! Mari is such a great blogger and friend, it was such an honor for me to share my story on her blog. Thanks Mari!

I went into today’s weigh in quite confident and with a renewed focus, since I recently decided to stop counting calories for a while and see where that takes me.

Over the weekend, I had a couple of splurges but nothing too major. And I stayed quite active last week, getting in some runs, weight training and dog park trips with Suzie (which are good for exercise and the soul). The weather was absolutely gorgeous and continues today! :)

So let’s cut to the chase and see how I did!

  • Last week’s weight: 150.8 lbs
  • This week’s weight: 150.4 lbs (-0.4)
  • Total lost to date: 1.2 lbs (8.8 to goal)

I lost the exact same amount that I did last week and I am grateful for it. Even though I have less to lose now than I did at the beginning of my journey, I still know that slow and steady wins the race.

Even though I have 8.8 lbs to get to my goal for this challenge, I still have 11 weeks to go. And even if I don’t get there at that point, I might a few weeks after that. I’m not concerned!

Goals

This week, I have decided to cut back on coffee. Not because I think it’s bad for me, but because I’m in a rut. I hate ruts, whether it be with food, exercise, etc. 

I was drinking a cup of coffee every morning but just out of habit, not always enjoying it. Sometimes I’d have another during the afternoon because the first one wasn’t enough. So we’ll see. Today, I haven’t had any, just tea. I can definitely tell I have a caffeine addiction!

I’m also planning to follow my mini marathon training program as closely as possible this week. I’ll be reporting on that over at River City Fitness!

If you want to catch up on past weeks of my Pound for Pound Challenge, there is a page for that :)

Calories revisited

This past week or so, I have been feeling really good about my food choices. I also feel like I have found a healthy balance again (i.e. not eating an entire loaf of French bread and box of cereal in a few days).

I feel like I’m back in control!

Therefore, I have decided to back off of calorie counting for a while. I had started doing this at the beginning of the year (January 4th) after overdoing it over the holiday break and especially when I began the Pound for Pound challenge in February.

Sure, it took a few months and a few setbacks to get here, but I’m in a good place again now and don’t feel the need to do it anymore for the time being at least. Personally, I think its okay to go back and forth with anything health-related that you do, depending on the situation.

No decision I make on here is forever.  I’ve changed my mind about my diet, about running, and a lot of other things over the past three years. There are things I don’t anticipate changing that sometimes do. I remember saying on my blog that I could never be a vegetarian, ha!  And I actually like to change things up from time to time, I think it goes with the seasons and keeps things exciting for me.

I shared a lot about my personal experiences with calorie counting back in February 2009.


You may also remember, I last gave up calorie counting (and weighing!) in May 2009 and did great until the summer when things got out of whack.

I went back to what I knew would work — food journaling and accountability — in September.  Then, in October I did a 30-day vegan challenge which is now responsible for my new way of living!

Even though I’m taking a break from counting anything, I’m still going to use my journal red notebook to plan meals, jot down notes and thoughts about my eating and workouts but there won’t be any numbers on there for a while. I just don’t need to spend time adding them up and would rather use that time for finding new recipes to try out!

I believe the best thing for me to do is to listen to my body for hunger cues, eat only when I am hungry and fill up on nutritious, whole foods.

But for me, it’s hard to do this all of the time and there will be occasions when I get out of “harmony” with my body, which is when I usually go back to tracking but only temporarily while I get balanced again. I know there are arguments on both sides of calorie counting, but I think it is up to the individual, their situation, and what is healthy for them.

For me, it is helpful to see how much I have “let go” and to become aware and focused on healthy eating. It’s also interesting to me to see how my body needs more certain days and less on others. It’s never the same! It is also one of the tools that helped me lose 70 lbs. But I know a lot of others out there, like fellow blogger Meghann, who were successful with weight loss and did not count calories.

So if you don’t need it, then don’t bother with it. It does get old sometimes and doesn’t give you the whole picture in terms of nutrition. And while this didn’t happen to me this time, calorie counting can also become an obsession and cause you more stress than it will help you.

So I’m not giving it up completely, I’m just taking a break from it for a while. We’ll see how it goes.  I’m confident that with my vegan diet, blogging regularly again, and a renewed focus on more whole and less processed foods, I can do just fine. I’ll still pay attention to the calorie counts of certain foods but I won’t keep a tally.

And by “do just fine” I mean I will be able to stay positive, energetic, balanced, and either maintain my weight or lose a few pounds. I did pledge to lose 10 pounds through the challenge!

This is just my story and my experience. I’m not trying to give anyone any advice other than search inside yourself, learn from your experiences, treat your body well and stay positive always.

Pound for Pound: Week 7

What a difference a week makes!

Last week, I had a major revelation. It was a wake up call, to say the least. Even though I gave up eating bars for Lent, I really feel like this was what I was really meant to learn: that I need to treat my body well by eating wholesome, nutritious foods and not to rely on junk when my health or my emotions are ailing.

So, I made some new rules for myself and my personal eating philosophy. And I feel so much better now! I believe getting back on track really helped me do well in my 10 mile race on Saturday too :)

Since I am in the middle of a weight loss challenge here at work, let’s see how I did in that area:

  • Last week’s weight: 151.2 lbs
  • This week’s weight: 150.8 lbs (Difference: -0.4)
  • Total lost to date: 0.8 lbs

Obviously, I feel pretty good about this number, especially after my huge gain last week. I almost expected a bigger loss, but I really feel like I did my best this week, which is all I could hope for. I ate nutritious and whole foods, kept processed stuff to a minimum, and had a positive frame of mind the entire week. Plus I ran 10 miles for goodness sakes!

I’m still a ways away from my original goal of losing 10 pounds for this challenge. However, there are still 12 weeks left to go, which is plenty of time. I just need to keep things in perspective and be patient with myself.

I also noticed that I blogged my eats for an entire week! I am definitely feeling like the old me again. When I am proud of what I am eating, it’s easier to share it here :)

Goals

This week, my goals are: keep eating the way I have been this past week, maybe even including some more variety in my fruits & veggies, take some walks with Suzie in the evenings, and to take at least one relaxing bath at some point this week — I did this last night and it was amazing. I soaked in some epsom salts for my muscles, lit a candle, and put on soothing music. Nice way to wind down a busy weekend :)

What are your goals this week?

In case you’ve missed previous weeks and wonder how I got to this point, check out my Pound for Pound Challenge page!

Pound for Pound: Week 5

I can’t believe we are five weeks into this challenge already! We still have a long way to go (ends June 30th) but I’m sure it will fly by.

If you’ve missed any of my weekly updates along the way, check out my Pound for Pound Challenge page.

Last week, I felt like I had finally overcome emotional eating and I still feel like I am in control of that. I don’t think it’s something you get over permanently but I’ve definitely made a step in the right direction.

I also wanted to focus more on what makes me happy and stress less. I feel like I worked on that this week but I’ve still got a ways to go. Going to a conference with my husband and some really great Christian friends definitely boosted my spirits though!

I also challenged myself to get in two days of weight training, which I am proud to say I managed to complete!

And I journaled every day but had to break the 9:00 rule a couple of times while I was out of town just due to scheduling. But I only ate if I was hungry, so I am proud of that.

Overall, even though I was out of town Thursday-Saturday, I felt like I did pretty good with my eating and exercise. I wrote down everything and exercised in the hotel gym Thursday (ran 2 miles) and Friday (morning-elliptical and weight training, evening-ran 3 miles).

I did not eat ONE thing that was not vegan the entire trip, even though keeping it this way was very challenging at times. So I had a clear conscience as well.

Let’s see how I did…

Last week’s weight: 147.8 lbs

This week’s weight: 147.5 lbs (-0.3)

Total pounds lost: 4.1 (5.9 to go)

I am so excited that 5 weeks in, I am getting close to halfway to my goal (of 10 lbs). I definitely feel like I have faced a few challenges along the way so far (like going out of town) and yet have been successful. This is a great feeling!

I’m telling you guys: journaling, exercise and attitude. That is what is working for me. I don’t “diet” or restrict my calories, I just eat when I’m hungry and portion control so I don’t go crazy. I average 1700-2000 per day depending on my activity (I eat more on long run days).

I exercise about 6 days a week, sometimes running, sometimes weight training and sometimes taking the dog for a nice walk. It doesn’t have to be a certain amount of time or a certain intensity to be effective. Every little bit counts, just make sure you do something!

My attitude has to be positive. Even if I had gained weight this week, I would’ve been okay with it. I also didn’t expect to lose a lot, so I didn’t set myself up for disappointment that way. Just do the best you can and go with the flow. Be happy and confident!

It felt so good to stock up my refrigerator and pantry yesterday and I’m looking forward to a good week of healthy eating and moving. With the exception of today, the weather should be lovely this week so I am really looking forward to that.

Thanks again to all the ladies who guest posted for me while I was gone. You all rock!

Checking in with Lent

Did you all give up anything for Lent? How’s it going? I gave up eating bars for Lent, which seems silly but it has been quite the challenge. Like any good or bad habit though, I feel like a few weeks was all it took to break myself of eating them. I really think I’ll go back to eating bars sometimes but mostly Larabars (which have few ingredients) or making them myself.

Goals

I would like to get in 2 more days of weight training this week and make that a regular thing. I’ve been doing my own Body Pump style workout but I think I might change it up and try some heavier weights with less reps this week. Gotta keep the body guessing!

I also want to get outside as much as possible. Spring is finally here and after the long cold winter we had, I must take full advantage :)

What are your goals for this week?

Pound for Pound: Week 4

In case you are interested in catching up on past weeks, I have made a new Pound for Pound Challenge page!

Honestly, I was not sure what to expect this week. Last week was sort of a roller coaster; it started off really good but then took nose dive toward the end of the week.

Nothing really bad happened, I have just been feeling a little blue thanks to hormones and the usual annoyances of adult life (like money, rent, banks, etc). So that is why I have not blogged until now. But I’m done complaining!

Going into today’s weigh in, I felt pretty confident that I had done the best I could this past week. I tracked my eating very well and felt good about that. I didn’t get my two weight training days in but I did get one. And a yoga class!

I managed to get some cardio exercise in Monday-Saturday, including taking some walks with my dog who needs more exercise in her life!

I ran three days last week, which is right about what I’m comfortable with. Four is good too, but any more and I’m tired, burnt out or hurting. No thanks ;-)

So, how did the weigh in go?

  • Last week’s weight: 149.2 lbs
  • This week’s weight: 147.8 lbs (-1.6 difference)
  • Total lbs lost for challenge: 3.8

Obviously, I’m very pleased with that result. I even checked back through my old records and I have not weighed 147 anything since April 2009. Wow!

I also had a breakthrough over the weekend that I wasn’t expecting.

On Friday night, I was feeling pretty meh, so I went to Meijer on the way home and bought a non-dairy chocolate bar (because I’m a vegan emotional eater, after all).

But even though I was going to allow myself to have it, for comfort, I had to work myself up to even eat a piece of it.

Then yesterday, when I was feeling sad, I tried to think of a dinner or a snack that would “cheer me up.” But I couldn’t.

In fact, I was even more in tune with my hunger yesterday than normal. What’s going on?

I think I am a reformed emotional eater! I think I have finally realized that while food (including non-dairy chocolate) can be comforting, it does not make you feel better. It does not solve your problems for you. It’s temporary.

While I feel like I have been in control of my eating for a long time now, this is the first time I felt completely free. Has that ever happened to you before?

Goals

My goals for this week are:

  • Work on my mood, doing things that make me happy and stressing less about those that don’t
  • Two weight training days, attempt # 2
  • Keep going with journaling and the 9:00 rule

What are your goals for this week?

Pound for Pound: Week 2

Did you miss Week 1?

This week, I was feeling really good going into the weigh in. I did not care what the number on the scale said, honestly. I do care about this challenge because it is for a good cause but I figure, even if I don’t lose the weight I pledged, I can make a donation to my local food bank instead. :)

What really matters is that I am pushing myself, just a little bit, in the realms of healthy eating and exercising. This past week, I managed to get in some sort of activity every single day last week, thanks to a week long gym pass, and it feels so good. I took a body pump-type class, 4 yoga classes (!), and also managed to get 4 decent runs in (on the treadmill) over the course of the week.

God bless the Cardio Cinema! I am so sad my pass ran out though :(

My eating was also much improved over last week, with only two instances where I broke the “9:00 rule.” I had a little trouble with portion control (dang tortilla chips) at a gathering on Saturday night but one time isn’t going to kill me. However, I did journal every day!

I am also hearing great things from my team members so far. There are 9 other people doing this challenge with me, all at various levels of health and fitness. Being their “Captain” so far has been a great experience. I’ve been sending them emails and messages and hearing back from almost of all of them on a weekly basis.

Being able to share my knowledge and experience of improving my overall health (not just weight loss) is such an honor.

So, let’s see how I did this week!

  • Last week’s weigh in: 151.6 lbs
  • This week’s weigh in: 148.7 lbs
  • Difference: -2.9 lbs

Now, I don’t usually lose that much in a week. I’m chalking it up to something being weird last week, since my weight was 148.5 just two weeks ago. But I did use the same scale as last week, wore the same clothes, etc. Just don’t look at my 2.9 lbs loss and be discouraged. This is just me and this is not normal!

This week, I also had my friend Farrah do my measurements and body fat, which I find to be much more important numbers anyway. This way, if the scale does not go down any further, I can at least tell in what areas I am making some progress.

Measurements (in inches):

  • Neck – 12.75
  • Shoulders – 41
  • Chest – 37.25
  • Waist – 32.75
  • Hips – 39.25
  • Waist-to-hip ratio: 0.83 (moderate risk – ideally this should be below 0.80)
  • Arms – L: 12.75, R: 13.5
  • Forearms – L: 9, R: 8.75
  • Thighs – L: 23, R: 23.25
  • Calves – L: 15, R: 14.5 

Body fat percentage (using calipers): 26.2%

I am happy to have those measurements done for now and it will be interesting to look back at the end of June and see what progress I have made.

Ideally, I would like to see my body fat get at least under 25%, if not 20%. I’d like the waist-to-hip ratio to come down a bit too. Those are the only measurement-based goals I have.

As for my eating habits, I feel like I did pretty good on the goals I set last week. I will be keeping these up into the coming week and set a new goal when I get the inspiration!

Pound for Pound: Week 1

This morning, I had my first “official” weigh in for the Pound for Pound Challenge.

I say “official” this time because I gave my official weight last week, but that was from my home scale and we all know the importance of consistency and using the same scale each week.

Today’s Weight: 151.6

I am up a bit from last week, but there were several factors at play here:

  • I used a different scale this week
  • I weighed at 11 a.m. instead of first thing in the morning
  • I had clothes on
  • My muscles are a bit inflamed from the awesome workout I had yesterday

So I’m not upset, concerned, etc. I wouldn’t be even if all of that weren’t true. The scale does not determine my happiness or my satisfaction with my body. I love me!

The last time I was in a weight loss program, I weighed in at the same time on the same day on the same scale once a week. I also wore the same or very similar clothing. The more consistent you can be, the more accurate your readings.

I might get rid of my home scale too. I originally did not have a scale at home, but since we are off work for two weeks around the Christmas holidays, I got one to keep me accountable around that time back in 2007.

Finally, I am counting today as my starting point and setting some goals for this week!

Goals for Week 1:

  • Journal/Meal planning
  • Portion control
  • Obey the 9 o’clock rule (aka no eating 2 hours before bedtime)

If you are in a weight loss program, how is it going for you? What are your goals this week?

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