A Need for Change

I feel so worn-out and weak I feel I must change something – either the diet or the exercise regime, and I really don’t want to limit my exercise having just begun to enjoy it.

I’ve been on some modified Atkins, or rather NSNG (no sugar, no grains) since January 30, but the weight loss has almost ground to a halt – I’ve lost just five pounds since May, even though I’ve upped the exercise immensely. The reasons, surely, must be at least in part psychological. Perhaps I feel during the summer that life has become more boring, I meet fewer people, I do less of what I really like. I see I’ve also increased the fruit intake, and that’s what prevents the weight loss. I feel like I’m lethargic most of the time, I don’t have as much energy as I used to have in spring, I feel tired when I go to bed and tired when I get up.

I see a lot of space for improvement in my diet, and one thing I have decided to introduce back in to my diet (VERY tentatively and warily) is oatmeal. I’m mortified that I might just fall off the bandwagon altogether, since I’ve worked so hard to get over cravings and sugar highs and lows. But it seems that it might be the right choice – to reduce the fats and to add some starches (just the oats for a while). Let’s see how it goes.

I’ve felt like a bit of a failure for some time now (basically throughout the summer), since the weight loss has slowed down and the energy levels are so low, but in fact, just writing this post helps. I’m taking stock for the first time since June, and I see that I have still lost some weight, albeit 5 pounds seem so little. I have gained some muscle mass and I have definitely increased stamina. So it’s not all bad, I’m not a failure, and there’s no reason for me to panic just because I’m about to add some rolled oats to my diet. I won’t let it get out of control and I won’t be stuffing myself with doughnuts and chocolate cake. It’s just oats.  There’s nothing to be scared of. They won’t kill your efforts, and if they do, you can always go back, you poor control freak.

(picture credit: http://www.healthybalancefitness.com.au/2014/10/grains-are-not-the-enemy/)

I need to look at what I eat to find the real culprit for the slow weight loss. Or, better even, I need to journal the food for a week and see what’s what. I need to monitor the energy levels so that I can find just the right balance of exercise and healthy nutrition. Can I trust myself to do that? For that is really what it boils down to, my friends.

Background of rolled oats, a grain cereal in which the seeds have been milled and rolled for use as a cooking ingredient and breakfast cerealyou

A Hedonistic Feat

Oh yes, what a glorious day!

I overcame my apathy and procrastination and went to the local gym. I loved it so much I wish I could go every day! Sadly, I’ve sprained or hurt my ankle, so I’ll have to do some upper body workout for a couple of days at home.

But what an adventure!

I couldn’t make myself enter the gym for several minutes, but I’m so glad I did! There was a young, athletic guy behind the counter who asked very politely – with a smile (a smirk?) – if he could possibly help me with anything.

“Could I come here? To this gym?” I asked. A stupid question if there ever was one, but I managed to find words in my blurry mind to pose another one that exceeded the dumbness of the first question. “Like – right now? At this moment?” Come on, woman, this is a gym! This is what it’s for. For people to come, pay some money and work out.

“Sure,” the guy wasn’t fazed. I looked around. There was just one man working out in the weights section. I felt relieved and confused at the same time. What was I doing there, all alone, with no one to tell me what to do? What if I didn’t know any of the machines? What would I do? But there was no way back. The guy took the money, gave me a key and showed me the way to the locker room.

The locker room was very neat and clean. It’s been less than a year since the gym is open, but still, I was impressed with the pretty showers and hair-blowers. I wondered if it was the same in the male locker room. I changed into my workout clothes and went out, with a bit of dread in my heart.

As soon as I saw the treadmills, the anxiety level subsided. I knew what to do for at least the first ten minutes. Surely I’d come up with a plan during that time. And I did. I tried out all the equipment that was in that part of the gym that could not be seen from the reception. All the equipment that had some sort of instructions on it, I mean. It took me almost an hour, and I felt I was nearly ready to stretch and to leave. I felt very invigorated and looked for some machine that would let me wind down and prepare the body for leaving. Something like an elliptical would do. I saw a black monster with an ominous title “StairMaster”. I approached it cautiously, but apparently not cautiously enough, since the guy at the counter saw me and came to me.

“I’ll show you,” he said, not listening to my meek explanations that my previous gym did not have any Masters of Stairs. “Let’s turn it on. You have to set the program. What’s your weight?”

And just like that I confessed to a complete stranger (a man, no less!) for the first time in my life, that I weighed 200 pounds. That didn’t faze him either, even though it seemed he realized it might be a sensitive subject and not an entirely safe question to ask a woman. He went on to show me the different modes (“here’s the fat-burning mode”), and left me to my vices.

I’m sure you know what followed. That StairMaster thingy was harder than anything else I had tried. In less than a minute I saw large drops on the display, arm rests and everything else around the mil_340x270.475398130_3ks7onster. God, that’s my sweat, I thought to myself with strange satisfaction. I also felt my ankle that had ached from yesterday’s run. But of course, I couldn’t give up. I spent my last ten minutes on the StairMaster before stretching and hitting the showers, and I felt such high as I had never felt during my runs (and I get the endorphin kick very easily!). Then – another first – I swiped the sweat off the machine.

So I showered, changed (the bra was soaking wet, and I hadn’t thought of taking another one with me, even the socks were wet!) and left, thanking the guy at the counter. I felt invincible, and I still do.

I’m in love. I’m in love with movement, I’m in love with gyms, I’m in love with that particular gym. I want to know it like the back of my hand. I want to know every machine, every weight, every locker, every employee, every client. I can’t wait to go back there.

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When Do You Start Seeing Yourself As An Exerciser?

I have a dear friend who struggles with her weight. Exercise is hard for her, but she doesn’t quit. She rides her bike longer and up steeper hills than I find comfortable. She swims a whole lot. She walks the extra mile. Still, she never really considers herself a cyclist, a swimmer, an exerciser. “That doesn’t count,” she says. “I’m way too slow and clumsy. If anything, I hide the fact I try to exercise at all. I dabble, at best.”

But, you see, I don’t think that’s true. Some weeks she puts a whole lot more effort in her exercise regime than I do. Some weeks I’m just lazy or too busy (or lazy) to move my behind. But I still consider myself a runner, even if I haven’t run for a month.

I think a book I read some ten or so years ago made my mind up for good. It was “The Complete Book of Running for Women” by Claire Kowalchik. There was an essay by Dawson Winch. She told how she struggled with calling herself a runner and decided once and for all that she would consider herself that. Even though others look more like runners. Even though others run faster. You run, so you’re a runner. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the slowest. You run, so you’re a runner.

This phrasing is more important than we might think. A study by  Alia Crum and Ellen Langer suggests that healthy life-style and exercise is as much about self-awareness and self-evaluation as about calories in/calories out.

84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information. Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.

So there you have it. Next time someone asks if you exercise at all (a doctor or perhaps a gym instructor), don’t confuse modesty with self-depreciation, and say it like it is.

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Momentum, Lost

I’ve lost the momentum. In every part of my life.

I’m still staying away from sugar and starches, but the weight I’ve lost (25 pounds since January 30) has not changed for months, even though I still have at least 60 pounds to lose.

I couldn’t run for over three weeks in July due to the heat wave in Europe, and now that it’s over I should have gone back to running weeks ago.  But I haven’t.

I did not start going to the “local” gym because I figured I should start on August 1, to pay for a complete month. But August 1 came and went, and now it’s August 19, and I’m kind of low on money.

I should be preparing for the coming school year (school starts on September 1 here), and there’s quite a lot to do, but I just can’t get myself to do it. I do miss the students, though. I’m really looking forward to my first September as a school counselor.

I should be working (translating) so much more. I’ll be overwhelmed with studies, work at school and the changes that come for every mother whose kids have to go back to school. And there will be dental bills for my husband. So I should devote all my energy to earning money.

But for some reason I can’t.

It’s not being stuck in a rut. I long for a rut. For a routine. For a plan.

What to do? Oh, what can I do?

Heck, there’s just one thing to do. Take out the planner, revise the goals list, divide all the tasks in chunks, stop wasting time and get down to it. Right now. Without delving into the murky waters of procrastination advice that is so abundant in the world wide web. Without looking for just the right picture for this post – witty and not too trite.

Just. Get. Back. On. Track. Now.

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