Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Diet" is NOT a verb

I was at the gym stretching after my workout yesterday when I struck up a conversation with an older man in the same area. He was soaked in sweat and had been apparently biking his ass off in a spinning class and was now attempting to do swiss-ball crunches.

We got to talking about working out - what works, what doesn't - when he asked: "How do I get rid of this?" as he grabbed a handful of his spare tire. 

I answered simply, "Diet." 

Then I realized I had to clarify what I meant. I didn't mean he had to "go on a diet." After all, that's sooooo 80's. What I meant was that he had to clean up his diet. No more booze - he mentioned an affinity for vodka. No boxed or processed foods. Limit starches. Be careful when you eat out (there's a TON of hidden fat in everything at restaurants).

Loads of low-fat protein - chicken, turkey, fish, eggs; veggies (minus the fattening dressings and sauces); fruit and berries (great fiber!); grains; low-fat dairy such as yogurt and milk; nuts, avocados and other healthy get the picture.

And for God's sake - don't starve yourself. It may seem like a foreign concept, but you actually have to eat to lose weight. If you skip meals, your body reverts to an evolutionary concept of holding on to every calorie in case it takes a week for you to fell your next wooly mammoth.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A surprise in my closet

Getting noticeably thinner these days. 

I spent much of yesterday afternoon cleaning out my closet. I tried on a bunch of jeans I had all but given up on - each was too tight when I did spring cleaning earlier this year - they all now fit and some are even getting roomy! 

How psyched am I!!!

Now I'm looking forward to fall so I can sport my "new" clothes.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Had a great workout at the gym today. Blasted my shoulders and abs before hitting the stairway to hell - the escalator-looking machine that just goes and goes and goes. Two weeks ago, it took me 20 minutes to climb a mile on this thing (and they're full steps, so there's no cheating!). Today I went two miles in the same time! WOW!

Then, I hopped on the treadmill next to my hubby and chugged out another mile in about 10 minutes. I know I'm not breaking any world records, but I'm breaking my own and that somehow seems more important to me now.

My energy level is through the roof these days and I feel great.

A 2-"Milerstone"

In my journey through the Fitness Safari, I am looking at every small achievement as another crossed milestone - each pound lost and rep completed is bringing me closer to my goal. Yesterday I passed such a milestone - actually I'm calling it a 2-"milerstone." 

Earlier this year, in what was to be yet another failed attempt at making exercise part of my regular routine, I hurt my hip running. I think I just tried to do too much too quickly and ended up with bursitis - the inflammation of a jelly-like sac covering the bony point of my hip (the greater trochanter). It is an attachment-point for muscles that move the hip joint. When inflammation is present, movements such as walking and running result in pain.

I finally came to the conclusion that the pain would not go away with rest alone and saw a sports medicine doctor who prescribed physical therapy. After just two weeks I noticed a dramatic improvement in the pain (it no longer hurt when I walked or jogged slowly). 

Back to yesterday's accomplishment. I got home from the gym and took my pup for what I thought was going to be an easy walk around the neighborhood. She would have no part of it - she wanted to run! 

So we did. We ran (albeit slowly) through the neighborhood, to the local park, around the circuit that wraps around about six soccer fields and back home - a distance of nearly two miles. I felt no pain, no shortness of breath, and we didn't stop except to cross a busy street. My hip was a bit sore last night, but it'll be fine with some ice and a day or two break.

Aside from the lack of the nagging hip pain, I was also surprised to see how my level of cardiovascular fitness has improved in such a short time when I'm doing little-to-no "traditional" cardio. When I hit the gym, my primary focus is up-tempo weight training. It must be doing the trick because I have never felt so good on a run.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm Hungry

Despite my jacked-up efforts in the weight room, this is not a common occurrence.

I've been eating about 80 grams of lean protein a day (.8 g per lb of my bodyweight as recommended by numerous fitness sites), along with lots of veggies, beans, walnuts and minimal whole grains such as sweet potatoes and wheat breads all divided into about 5 meals/snacks a day. I'm only drinking water and green tea. If I stick to the plan, I can generally stave off the hunger - for the most part.

Today I made two mistakes. I didn't have a mid-morning snack and I made pasta for lunch. I think the two events are related. When I get hungry - and I mean really, really hungry, I crave carbs. The pasta is Dreamfields which claims to be a minimal carb pasta, but it tastes like the real thing (some sort of top-secret process virtually eliminates the glycemic spike normally associated with pasta). It has some protein and fiber, but apparently not enough of either as I was still hungry after I ate a good-sized bowl.

Lesson learned.

I realized that by working out hard, my body is continually working hard to repair damaged muscle fibers - the key to increasing lean body mass. To build muscle, you need protein, so I downed a lo-carb protein shake (EAS Chocolate) made with skim milk to correct the problem. Now, it's mid-afternoon and I'm hungry again so I grabbed a snack that will not blowout my calories for the day. Enter: Muscle Milk Light protein bar. Yum.

At 160 chewy-chocolatey calories it packs in 15g of protein, 18g carbs, 4g fiber, and 5g fat. It will stave off my hunger until dinnertime while giving me the energy I need for an after-work trip to the gym.


My average caloric intake in food over the past two weeks has been approximately 1,200 calories a day. My body needs about 1,325 calories just to maintain what I've got - and that's at rest. But, if I want to lose about a pound a week, I need a deficit closer to 500 calories a day. Since that would allow me only 875 pathetic little calories to eat, I have to make up the difference through exercise.

LUCKILY, training with weights (and I mean training, not just tinkering around) I'm torching calories, revving up my metabolism and building muscle. I'm already starting to see the difference and can't wait to see how I look in 30 days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Let's Get Physical

Ever since a spandex-clad Olivia Newton-John sang those three magic words, women have been under the impression that the only thing between the hard body of their dreams and the elimination of their cellulite is "cardio." 

"If I just do more 'cardio' I'll lose weight."
"I can get rid of my cellulite if I do more 'cardio.'" 

And this may be true -  Stairmaster, treadmill, elliptical machines, stationary bicycles - Moderate to intense use of this equipment will in fact raise your heart rate, improve your cardiovascular fitness and burn a few calories. BUT, you can spend hour upon hour on these machines and never achieve muscle definition. On top of that, when you are doing traditional 'cardio,' you are only burning calories while your heart rate is elevated. This means that by the time you reach your car your metabolism will already be back to where it was before you walked into the gym.

If you weight train, you can burn serious calories throughout your workout AND, by increasing your muscle mass (lean body mass) you will burn more calories at rest. Yes - you heard me right. 

For example, if you add a single pound of new muscle to your body (and you maintain it) you will burn 50-100 more calories (depending on your metabolism) EVERY DAY while sitting on your ass watching TV - as long as you don't have your face buried in a bag of potato chips or a gallon of ice cream. 

It would seem that through some nutty evolutionary mechanism, our bodies would prefer to burn fat rather than muscle for energy when given the choice. By weight training, you are making your body choose and it will always take the most efficient path. 

Want to learn more? Read this article from American Fitness magazine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Every little bit counts

Success! I Made it to the gym today. Got an arm workout in - bi's and tri's and a little lower abs. Didn't have time for a cardio blast as I had to pick up the peanut after school. The scale isn't budging, but I feel like my shape is getting a bit more solid. Every little triumph must be celebrated.

Food count for today:
  • Breakfast: protein shake made w/skim (200 calories, 47 g protein, 14 g carbs, 3 g fat total)
  • 1 c strawberries & raspberries for mid-morning snack (sprinkled w/a bit of Splenda), green tea
  • Lunch: 1 grilled chicken sandwich with melted mozzarella, roasted red peppers on an oat wheat roll.
  • Dinner: 1 taco (made at home) with lean ground beef and about 1/3 c of black beans w/ a bit of cheese sprinkled on it all. Washed it down with a glass of skim milk 
  • dessert: another protein shake 
It's 10 p.m. and I'm hungry again. Not sure if I'm eating enough. I could really go for a piece of cheesecake right now. Damn.

1,388 Calories

Today I have a little trivia for you: Guess what chain-restaurant appetizer has 1,388 Calories and 100 grams of fat?

The Double Cheese Chicken Quesadilla at Ruby Tuesday.

I particularly like their description of the dish:
Double Cheese Chicken Quesadilla (Grilled chicken, cheddar cheese and tomatoes in a grilled flour tortilla. Served with salsa and sour cream. (Jalapenos upon request.)

It sounds healthy with all of those "grilled" buzzwords, but it's really a fat blast disaster. If you want to see what you're really eating when you eat out, check out Pay attention to the serving size listed as most are in 1/4 plate portions.

 It's an eye-opening experience.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Break a sweat once a day

My new motto: Break a sweat at least once a day. I know it's not original, but it's snappy. Just got back from a quick jog with my favorite running buddy, Bella.

When she's not chewing on everything, she's quite the runner. Knowing she needs the exercise as much as I do (or she would eat the house) helps me to get moving when I would otherwise rather retire to the couch with a glass of wine.

My shoulders are still burnt from Saturday's back/shoulder blast, and my legs are recovering from my stair climber odyssey of Sunday, so a light cardio day is probably a good idea.

Ate well so far today - protein shake with skim milk for breakfast; muscle milk light bar for mid-morning snack; turkey sub on wheat/oat bread with veggies and O/V for lunch; small handful of walnuts for afternoon snack and now I'm planning lemon shrimp and lo-carb pasta for dinner. I highly recommend DreamFields for all of you pasta-fanatics out there. Low-glycemic impact = no insulin spike. Also sipped water all day and had a mug of green tea with Splenda this a.m.

Today's weight, 125 stubborn pounds. 

The Impenetrable Forest i actually began my fitness quest in earnest (for the millionth time) about two weeks ago. I am learning that my problem isn't getting in a good workout, but actually getting to the gym. Every time I plan to go I am distracted by a never-ending list of things I should be doing at home - washing the floors (damn dog hair); cleaning the bathroom (what IS that funk on the toilet seat?); tackling the laundry (How many people live here?).

Just getting from my bedroom to my car with gym bag in hand is like trekking through a dark, impenetrable forest. Just when I think I've found the way out, the path twists and turns, ultimately keeping me from reaching my desired destination.

The overgrown forest of housework and wifely/motherly duties is perhaps my biggest roadblock and I have to find a way to blaze through it without distraction.

Welcome to the Jungle

My whole life I have been an athlete. As a kid, I played softball, basketball, soccer, track...not to mention endless games of touch and tackle football with my friends. While my activity level was quite high (especially when compared to today's video-game generation), my diet was woefully poor. Processed foods, chips, soda and whole milk *gasp* made up a high percentage of my daily intake. If I hadn't been as active there is little doubt that I would have been an obese child.

Despite my four-season sports schedule, like most teens, my weight caught up with me in early high school. By the end of my freshman year I had reached 136 lbs. Luckily I slimmed down naturally after my pubescent hormonal fluctuations regulated. By senior year I found myself at 5'2" and 105 lbs. without any real change in diet or activity level.

That was 17 years ago. Today I am a somewhat active mother of one daughter, one stepson and two grown stepdaughters. I'm still only 5'2" (some things can't be helped), but I'm topping out around 125 lbs. Now that's not a bad weight for my height and build, but I have found that as I near my 36th birthday that my bodyfat is overtaking my lean muscle mass and something must be done.

This blog will chronicle my journey over the physical-fitness savannah in search of my abs on an expedition I call the Fitness Safari.