Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Week Of Eating At Maintenance: Day Four

I'm super, super sore today. I can tell my muscles are swollen because my jeans are a little tight in the thighs at the moment. The scale reflects it.


Weight: 127.4
Body Fat %: 23.3%

Breakfast
364 calories
Still no molasses. I plan on going grocery shopping after work tomorrow, so Saturday should be back to normal!

Morning Snack
350 calories

Morning Snack #2
I can't take pictures of snacks I have at work because we aren't allowed to use cameras. Even after my morning snack and breakfast, I was ravenous today. It's not unusual for me to be that hungry in the morning after a lifting day. So when it does happen, I get a NuGo bar, like today's Dark Mocha bar. I also got another coffee because I was absolutely exhausted this morning for reasons I am not disclosing yet.
192 calories

Lunch
368 calories
Despite having packed my lunch today, I realized no one would be around to go out to lunch tomorrow, so we went out today instead. Conveniently I can just leave my lunch in the fridge in the cubicle for tomorrow. Less prep time tomorrow morning! I had a chicken tortilla soup at the local Mexican restaurant. I also felt like a big fricking weirdo taking a picture of my food in the restaurant.

Afternoon Snack
385 calories
Hummus and some lentil chips with a package of oat and honey bars. Simple and satisfying.

Dinner
361 calories
I know, it doesn't look like much for dinner. Zumba is at 7 on Thursdays and I hate having a heavy meal in my stomach and I can never make it home early enough to have something more substantial. This is my solution and it works for me. My clumpy-lumpy Cookies'n'Cream Spiru-tein shake made with almond milk and a  Nature valley crunchy almond bar.

Evening Snack
248 calories
I was a little bit hungry after Zumba so I went with the frozen yogurt with a spoonful of peanut butter. I actually forgot to take a picture (oopsy), so I was happy I had yesterday's to use.

Total Calories Consumed: 2266
Total Steps Taken: 15,750

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Week Of Eating At Maintenance: Day Three

I fell asleep last night reading last night, genuinely fell asleep with my Kindle in my hands. Since I was getting to the good part of the book, I decided to lay around in bed after I'd hit the snooze button and finish it off.  It's the third Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan book I've devoured in the course of four days. I guess you could say I really like them.

Weight: 127.0
Body Fat %: 23.1%

Breakfast
343 calories
Oatmeal for breakfast again! It's my old standard, peanut butter and bananas because I'm really, truly out of blackstrap molasses this morning. I got a miniscule 2g out of the container before I gave up on the rest. The slow as molasses saying took on literal meaning this morning for me. Though I always try to find the smallest bananas possible, sometimes I end up with half of my bunch being slightly bigger than the rest, so this morning I ended up with more banana, which works out fine for me due to the lack of molasses.

Morning Snack
332 calories
I really ought to start taking the time at night to organize my lunch for the next day. It'd save me a good 20 minutes every morning and I'd get to work so much sooner. Today's morning snack is the same yogurt and granola bar combo. I always try to bring the mug with me to sip my coffee from, as it results in less coffee on my shirt than sipping from the thermos does.

Lunch
347 calories
Can you tell I'm a fan of the foil-wrapped sandwiches? Today I had a kid's sized Flatout wrap with some spicy mustard (no mayo today, didn't feel like it) and a serving of honey roasted turkey breast. I wanted to have hummus and a serving of lentil chips with lunch today which is why I went with the kids wrap. I also had a serving of my kale chips to get my daily Vitamin K requirement. A few months ago, I spent some time logging my food on Cronometer and found out an interesting fact about my diet. I rarely ever get enough vitamin K and since kale is an excellent source of it, my daily kale chip consumption was born.

Afternoon Snack
361 calories
Cookies and Cream Spiru-tein Shake made with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and an almond crunch bar. My teeth hurt less today, so eating the bar was easier. I think I need one of those tiny metal wire balls to make my shake because I end up with big ol' clumpies in it. Today was a lifting day (NROLFW Stage 1, Week 6 of 8, Workout A) followed by 15 minutes of intervals on the treadmill.

Dinner
417 calories
I was famished by the time I got home and didn't want to wait too long to make food. Two sunny side up eggs on top of some hummus on an English muffin with two slices of bacon on the side fit the bill perfectly. The bacon looks all crumpled up because I think I bought the worst bacon ever. It was a bargain pack from BJ's and it's nearly impossible to pull them apart intact. I also wanted something refreshing after my workout and muggy car ride home, so I snagged an orange out of the fruit drawer.

Evening Snack
231 calories
I felt like having a little treat with some peanut butter after dinner, so I had a serving of Stonyfield's Gotta Have Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with a 22g scoop of peanut butter. Mmmm, good way to end my day!

Total Calories Consumed: 2030
Total Steps Taken: 10,000

Ode to Avocados

I love avocados. In fact, I love them almost as much as I love oats.
Powerful words, those.

Fun Avocado Facts
  • It is not, in fact, a vegetable. It's a fruit.
  • It's a good source of fiber, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B5, potassium and vitamin B6.
  • Despite the fact that the average avocado contains roughly 30 grams of fat, approximately 66% of those fat grams are healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • Avocados will ripen faster in the presence apples or bananas due to the influence of ethylene gas.
  • Browning (oxidation) can be prevented by sprinkling a little bit of lemon juice on the cut sides. In things like my simple avocado dip below, you can prevent browning by fitting a piece of plastic wrap tight to the surface of the dip.
  • To check for ripeness, press gently against the avocado. If it gives a little under your finger, it's perfect. An under ripe avocado will feel like a rock, but can be ripened by putting it into a paper bag with some bananas. Overripe ones will feel extremely squishy.


Sarah's Simple Avocado Dip

1/2 of a ripe avocado
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch salt

1. Select a ripe avocado. Using a sharp knife, cut the side of the avocado until you feel the pit against the blade, then rotate the knife around the avocado, halving it.
2. Twist the avocado and pull the halves apart. Leaving the pit in, sprinkle that half with a little bit of lemon juice and store it covered in the fridge. It should last a few days.
3. Cut the other half in half again, leaving you with two quarters. Gently peel the skin off the quarters.
4. In a small food processor, combine the lime juice, salt and avocado. Pulse until smooth.
5. Enjoy the dip with crackers, chips or on top of a taco salad!

I'm always looking for new things to do with avocados, so if you've got some ideas leave a comment!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Week Of Eating At Maintenance: Day Two

It's back to work today. I'm both happy and sad about that fact because being at work means I have a set routine to follow and I'm less likely to deviate from the food choices I have. First thing's first though, scale and body fat monitor time!

Weight: 126.8
Body Fat %: 23.8%

It's not unusual for my body fat percentage to swing like that over the course of a week. Chalk it up to varying hydration levels. I don't really give it much thought unless it swings into the 24% range, as that would be unusual for me.

Breakfast
This is going to look awfully familiar.
334 calories
It's essentially the same breakfast as yesterday, except that I only managed to eke 11g of blackstrap molasses out of the jar. I knew I should have bought more when I went shopping this past weekend. Oh well!

Morning Snack
332 calories
Sensing a theme yet? Yes, this exactly the same morning snack I had yesterday with a different yogurt flavor. I have several different morning snack combinations that I like and alternate through during the year. Right now I'm in a yogurt and granola bar phase. Particularly the Nature Valley Oats and Dark Chocolate bar because it satisfies my chocolate craving without providing as much saturated fat.

Lunch
351 calories
After the inaugural 30 minute Zumba (Hi Lauren!) class at my work, lunch was a welcome site. I almost always pack my lunch and snacks for work and since I can't use my phone camera at work I had to photograph them all separately before I packed them up. Today I had a serving of Hillshire Farms Reduced Sodium Honey Roasted turkey breast on a whole wheat tortilla with half a serving of mayonnaise and a serving of mustard. The sides were a 1.5 oz baggy of unsalted edamame and a serving of my kale chips.

Afternoon Snack
361 calories
Mid-afternoon snack today is an Nature Valley Almond Crunch bar (which makes my teeth hurt when I chew it, it's crunchy) and my Spiru-Tein and almond milk shake.

Dinner
321 calories
As usual, I got home from work later than I intended to because the traffic in the center of my town is massively backed up due to construction. With only an hour until Zumba, I needed something that wouldn't sit too heavily in my tummy, so I went with my standard Nature Valley Granola bar and peanut butter. Under the 22g of peanut butter are the two dark chocolate and oats bars. Eric will read this and scold me for eating such a measly dinner. Or perhaps he's just accepted it by now. I'm not sure.

Evening Snack
269 calories
I needed a good snack with some protein post-Zumba, so I made my favorite dirty two egg scramble and stuffed it into a whole wheat tortilla. I call it dirty because after you add all of the spices and salsa it looks messy and dirty. Silly name, I know.

Total Calories Consumed: 1968
Total Steps Taken Today: 16,000


Kitchen Adventure: Strawberry Shortcake

Eric and I celebrated our two year anniversary earlier this week. As much as I love eating out, I really wanted to cook a simple but delicious meal for us. I've got a go-to recipe for the dinner portion, but when it came to choosing a dessert I was unsure. I walked up to Wegmans, picked up my necessary dinner ingredients then spent some time wandering around the produce section.

It was an unseasonably warm weekend, reminiscent of August during the New England summer. Since the weather felt so summery, I decided to go with one of my favorite summer desserts after I walked by the gigantic strawberry display.


Strawberry Shortcake
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

Strawberries
8 cups (40 oz/2.5bs) strawberries, hulled and quartered
6 tablespoons (2.5 oz) sugar

1. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a plastic container with a lid and shake it up. Feel free to dance around the kitchen while you do this, it makes it more fun. Alternatively you can put the mixture into a big metal bowl and mash them with a potato masher. I think that's not as much fun though.
2. Store the shaken/squished strawberry mixture in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Shortcake
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little more for the work surface and biscuit cutter
3 tablespoons sugar, plus a little more for sugaring the tops of the biscuits
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, frozen and cut into half inch cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon half and half
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

1. Combine the first four ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to combine.
2. Sprinkle the frozen, cubed butter over the top and pulse until the mixture looks sandy. Pour it into a large bowl and make a small well in the center.
3. In a mixing cup, combine the egg with the half and half. Pour the mixture into the well in the dry ingredients. Using a spatula, gently fold the until the mixture starts to come together in large clumps.
4. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and work with a dough scraper until it comes together fully. Using a small rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 3/4" thick disk. Flour the cutter and cut out the biscuits. Note: Don't twist the cutter, it'll mess up the sides of the biscuit and they won't look quite right. Also, don't feel like you have to use a round biscuit cutter. Cookie cutters work just fine, especially teddy bears.
5. When it comes time to re-roll the dough, before doing so you should cool it off just a little bit by placing a cake pan atop the mass and putting some frozen stuff on top of it. Let it cool for five minutes or so, then repeat the rolling and cutting process.
6. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg white and then sprinkle a little sugar on top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, cold
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine all ingredients the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat until fluffy.

Once all the components are finished, you can split the biscuits with a serrated knife. Combine, top with whipped cream and enjoy!


Monday, May 28, 2012

A Week Of Eating At Maintenance: Day One

Last week, I posted on Facebook inquiring what topics people would like me to post about. Rachel, who I know through the Calorie King forums, had several interesting topics for me. She wanted to know about the set point theory and, like many, wanted to know more about maintenance. While I'm still working on compiling my thoughts on maintenance, I realized that what everyone wants to know when they ask about maintenance is what and how much I eat. So, for one week, I will give everyone a glimpse of what eating at maintenance looks like for me along with insight into my daily routines each day. If you're interested in another long term maintainer's thoughts on maintenance, please check out this awesome guest post that Lisa wrote for me.
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Every morning I'm at home the first thing I do when I awaken is wander over to our second bathroom. This is where we decided to keep my scale when we moved and I've weighed myself (almost daily) with this scale for well over three years now. I weigh myself daily but only record it once a week on Fridays.

Weight: 127.4

It's a little higher than my ceiling threshold weight of 127 but I'm not overly dismayed. It's nearing that time of the month and I've been lifting a ton lately. Now onto the next step in my morning ritual, which is to check my body fat percentage with my handheld monitor. I bought this monitor after I started losing weight in an effort to track it go down. Unfortunately, Calorie King didn't allow body fat percentage value logging when I got it it so much of my historical data has been lost. Like my weight, I take the reading daily and only record it once. It's just a good secondary measurement.

Body Fat %: 22.8%

I'm pleased as punch with this number. Perhaps after 6 weeks of doing NROLFW, it's finally starting to pay off.

Breakfast
351 calories
Breakfast today consists of a standard 40g serving of oats with 40g of unsweetened almond milk, 18g of natural peanut butter, 60g of banana and topped off with 18g of blackstrap molasses. On the side we have a glass of water to wash down my vitamins (Omega 3s and B12) and Advil dosage. The Advil's for the glute injury I've been suffering through for the last few months. Fortunately, the doctor told me I only have to take the absurd dosage (3.2g/day) for a week or two. I won't touch the coffee until after all my eating has been done. I like to sit and sip it slowly while I surf the internet.

Morning Snack (a.k.a second breakfast)
332 calories
A couple of hours after breakfast, my tummy starts to rumble again so I always have a snack, even though it turns out to be about the same amount of calories as my breakfast meal. I recently found the blood orange flavor of Chobani and I absolutely adore it. What an easy way to get more protein!

Lunch
429 calories
This is not my standard lunch, but something I like to eat when I'm home for lunch. Two large eggs sunny side up on top of a light english muffin with 28g smear of hummus between the egg and the bread with a serving of my homemade kale chips on the side and an orange. Satisfying and filling.

Afternoon Snack
201 calories
The remnants of my Stonyfield After Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt (69g left) with a 35g scoop of Spiru-Tein Cookies and Cream. Two hours later, I head out the door for a run. 5K in 29:53 and it's freaking hot out there. It feels more like August than it does May.

Dinner
377 calories


Eric and I celebrated our second anniversary with a lovely dinner of beef tenderloin with blue cheese and a red wine reduction. The sides were some roast asparagus and my favorite rosemary potatoes. I was almost all the way through my steak before I realized I needed to take a picture of it. It was an excellent meal. And I managed to get all of my pieces done at the same time. I think my cooking skill just leveled up.

Dessert
326 calories
Our meal wouldn't have been complete without dessert, so some homemade strawberry shortcake was in order. And I mean homemade, I made the biscuits, the strawberry mixture and the whipped cream. I love indulging in dessert treats like this where I've put the effort into making all the elements.

Total Calories Consumed: 2017

The Set Point Theory: Relevant or outdated?

Image: winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
What is Set Point Theory?
To answer this question, I think it's best to defer to quoting this passage from an article in OB/GYN news by Bruce Jancin:
The set point theory holds that obesity entails a metabolic defect that functions as a homeostatic mechanism. This defect is supposed to result in a slowdown of resting metabolic rate in an overweight or obese individual who has lost weight. The resultant reduction in energy expenditure is said to be responsible for the often-observed scenario in which the individual regains the weight that was lost and thereby returns to his or her set point.
Well, that's a rather negative outlook to hold with regards to weight loss and maintenance. It might even get people thinking, "Why bother?"

Let's look a little deeper.

Is Set Point Theory still relevant?
When Rachel asked me about set point on Facebook, I knew I didn't have enough information to make my case for the strong gut feelings I had on the subject. Knowing that, I dove into the research and found the article above, this blog post by Yoni Freedhoff, this Oxford Journal article and several other articles on PubMed. Not the lightest of readings, I know, but I wanted to be able to put my thoughts into an well constructed post.

My opinion?

I think the way that the set point theory has been interpreted and spread through society is bogus. It's been translated to a fatalistic interpretation of some old science and is often (though not always) used to justify a lifestyle that results in an overweight individual. I would know, I was that person once. In looking at the scientific research done on set point, I truly believe the science behind it was accurate for the times. I'm sure there is a homeostatic mechanism that regulates body weight and body fat percentage. Our body has many mechanisms like that. But to say that it's a fixed value that can never be changed and not a range? That's unlikely. Take body temperature for example, in a healthy human it can range from 97°F to 99°F. It's not always 98.6°F. I think it's important never to take a commonly held belief based upon actual studies without a grain of salt.

Given my own personal experience with maintenance, I tend to agree with what Mr. Freedhoff writes in his post. People regain lost weight as they regain their old habits and lifestyles. If you truly want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to put a great deal of thought into the sustainability of a change. Can you give up eating refined sugars for the rest of your life? Maybe if you moved into the woods and never set foot in a supermarket again, but I don't think that's possible for each and every one of us.

Questions? Comments? Disagree with me? Let me know down below.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Scott's Road to Healthier: Part Two

Today's post is the conclusion of Scott's story. Hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I did!
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Alright, enough about teeth, you probably want to know how this relates to my total health (other than how many studies do show a very strong correlation between dental hygiene and total health)? Well, it has to do with the new way of how I approached change and progression. I started applying the same methodology to the rest of my life. I’ve been playing soccer once a week since graduating college in a friendly adult co-ed league. I'm pretty fast but over the years I've had significantly less stamina. It’s gotten to the point where I do one shift and then take the entire next shift to catch my breath. My teammates give me funny looks and ask, "Are you OK?" I thought I might have some asthma or allergies that have gotten worse over time, but who am I kidding? I had also lost my bundles of extra energy. Suddenly, I felt on the field just as bad as my diet had been that day. I tried to eat healthier on game days, but all that soda and snack food was catching up with me.

How did I get healthier? I started by thinking of ways to be less unhealthy, and worked on them bit by bit. I can name on one hand the fruits I like and much less than one hand the vegetables. It's pretty hard to find a healthy meal I like. I took them all and put them in a salad, and suddenly, I'm undeniably healthier than I was before. Now at least 1-2 times a week, my lunch is a salad with pineapple, grapes (if they have them), cucumbers, and pea pods (if they have them). Not bad, right? It’s certainly much better than the two packs of ramen noodles, piles of Coke cans,vanilla wafers and potato chips I'm used to. Notice that I didn't say I stopped eating those foods. I still have them, just not as much, and some of these foods I've stopped buying entirely. When I go out for pizza, I always ask for pineapple on it. Why, even if half the places don't carry it? Because, why deny myself any chance I have to start my road to healthiness.

And slowly it's helped. The more it helps, the more you want to help yourself. I'm no longer fighting myself and my bad habits, I'm working for myself. A month ago I hit a major milestone on (which I didn't even realize until just now) was my road to a healthy living. I stopped drinking Coke. Oh sure, I've tried to stop cold turkey many, many times before. My wife stopped buying it for me months ago so I had to go make trips just for the soda if I wanted it, and that's helped give me opportunities to stop. Most of those opportunities failed. But the more I tried, the more often I would willingly replace a can of coke for a glass of water, or buy more orange juice or lemonade instead, and grab that from the fridge instead of the coke. A year ago, I never drank water. Ever. Now it's my main drink, and when I want taste I grab a lemonade or OJ instead. After 3 days without it because she didn't buy another 12 pack, I decided to just not go to the store and get something else from the fridge. And a week later when we ran out of everything but water, I went to the store and left out the Coke. I didn't even know I was quitting until I had quit.

Finally I've started down the same road with exercise. I often play soccer twice a week. I now go to cross-pit (a cross-training exercise class) at my wife's Tai Chi martial arts academy. I didn't start by going every week, I tried it out once, but I'm once a week now. I've joined an ultimate Frisbee team of my friend's (a sport that requires more sprinting than soccer). Suddenly I'm forcing myself to exercise enough times a week where I can start to improve. I can actually breathe again when I play soccer, and instead of focusing on how much I can't breathe, I can focus on the fun parts of the game: the mechanics, the dribbling and the passing.

The biggest lesson I've learned in the past five years of my life is that the point of this post is not to say, "Go me.” To me, that's the loser's attitude, because it means I wasn't doing all of this for me, I was doing it all for someone else, or for my image, or for some other reason. The point of this post is to say, "We can all do this". Everyone has different needs and different things to work towards, and even those that appear healthy have to understand how to live with a healthy mind and body. And if you're someone who it's apparent just from your appearance that you're not as healthy as you can be, then I hope another story helps to understand just how important it is to be healthy, and how you don't have to be ashamed of being unhealthy to anyone but yourself. Most importantly you never have to be ashamed of your road to healthiness. Ever. If your road to healthiness starts with a simple walk once a week, then be just as proud of it as a marathoner is when they cross the finish line.

Additionally, I want to mention how others have viewed my road to healthiness. When I started pointing out how much saturated fat is in foods, sometimes my peers at first would laugh at me. They said your blood pressure is low, you're a skinny twig, what do you care? When I told my peers that I'm quitting Coke but drinking lemonade instead, they said, "That's just as bad for your teeth." When I said I need more energy to run they said, "You play soccer every week!" A positive environment isn't just about your peers helping you along the way, it's about them understanding what you need. I simply tell them, "Look doing something better is better than doing nothing at all." My salad may still be unhealthy because of the dressing, but would you have me throw out the fruits and vegetables because it's not perfectly healthy and go back to chips? Maybe I don't need to worry about my saturated fats compared to someone who's larger or has bad blood pressure already, but does that mean I should eat like I did for the rest of my life and tempt fate?

Don't write off your peers' opinions because they don't see eye to eye right away. I explained my needs and methods to take small steps and quickly they started to understand. Obviously, if you have friends that don't want to understand after you've explained then good riddance to them. But everyone makes mistakes, and your peers often need some convincing to realize just how they need to help you. Better yet they may start to agree themselves. People who couldn't run before have started walking, and mixing small runs into their walks. My wife has taken steps towards making her diet and lifestyle healthier because she knows that I won't ridicule her for not being at her goal yet, and she'll have someone who's proud of her for every step that she does take.

Lastly, I'd like to mention that if this ever makes it past just being a personal email of thanks, I mention Sarah because she's all too familiar with the story of self-improvement and change. I know she's tried many things over the years that didn't work but it has all lead to a path of changes that did work. And while I realize the blogging community for health is filled many success stories much greater than mine, and those who are reading those stories are looking up to those great stories wondering how they can ever measure up. I hope that a story not so great can help to prove the point that everyone can measure up.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scott's Road to Healthier: Part One

One of my favorite quotations is a Ghandi quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I'm a firm believer that by doing things and acting in a certain way, you can motivate people more strongly than any speech could. I'm an actions speak louder than words kinda gal. I've known Scott since my sophomore year in college. We've always gotten along well, despite Scott's pen tapping problems during tests. When he sent me this "wall of text" in an email that I received and read while sitting in the Phoenix airport, I was so happy and proud of him for taking control and amazed that the quote does have truth to it.  Enjoy part one, part two comes out tomorrow.
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I'm posting this story here because I've known Sarah since before she started her quest for health and her story has always put a smile on my face. The second reason is that I don't want to start my own blog. I've tried it, and let's just say I'm a bit too lazy and narcissistic to have a blog that's not terrible.
My story is in reverse of Sarah's. I didn't start out that unhealthy, and it took me getting worse to realize where my problems have always lain. If you were to look at me as a teenager you'd assume I was healthy, though perhaps a bit of a twig. I played lots of soccer, running endlessly. I was healthier when compared to my peers but I wasn’t truly healthy. I drank lots of Coke (maybe 3-6 cans a day), and though I would cut it for soccer season in high school, the "addiction" came back. I obviously hesitate to call it a real addiction as I don't want to offend someone who is, for instance, addicted to cigarettes.

But healthy is a lifestyle and therefore a mindset, and the reality of this hadn't hit home yet. I went to college, and though I occasionally played soccer in club form at school, I didn't run or keep up with any form of exercise. But that's fine for someone whose metabolism is great, right? I also ate poorly. My diet has always been pretty limited diet, eating only the foods I like. Taste, I’ve come to realize, is texture based for me, and for a long time I abused the extra energy that youth (though I'm still young) and a good baseline of health can provide.

Oddly enough, it was my teeth that made me realize I wasn't healthy. I rarely brushed my teeth, something that's hard to admit in public and pretty appalling if you think about it, but there it is. I never liked the taste of toothpaste. A fact that simple caused me to lie about my habits and make excuses to everyone about my "weak teeth", which might be true but that doesn't matter. I always had lots of cavities, and I walked a thin line of keeping them maintained, but throughout my childhood (and college) while I was on my parents' dental plan, I would always have regular checkups and keep them OK. 3-4 cavities a year or checkup was normal.

But we all grow up, and I graduated, got my own job with my own dental plan, and didn’t see a dentist for three years. Why? I didn't revolt against dentistry, I simply never thought of it. The few times it did cross my mind, I said "I'll do that later." If someone had made me go to the dentist during those years I would have gone. But since it was my job now and it never came to mind that it was a job I should have been doing, I didn’t go.

Then one day I got a cavity so bad it gave me a week of constant pain. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight at work, and my whole head hurt. Since I'll never have to give birth, I'm going to hope that it was the worst pain I'll ever experience though I know better in reality. I finally made an appointment with the dentist, and lo and behold, I had 12 cavities, one tooth that needed to come out, one that needed a crown and one that needed a root canal and a crown. Over the next year and a half, I slowly had them all fixed up, and that was when I knew I had to change.

But here's the important part of the story, not my life story, but my road to change. How could I actually get better after so many failures? Every time I had come home from the dentist before, I'd use a stopgap method. I'd brush and sometimes even floss for a week or a month, but then I'd regress, because I wasn't willing to make the change. I only tried to fix the problem in front of me. It was just like quitting soda for a two month soccer season, only replacing it with just as much Gatorade. Surprise, surprise, when the season was over, it was Coke by the bucketful. I never brushed in the morning because I'm so terrible at getting up that I have zero extra minutes to spare. I didn’t brush at night because I stay up so late (eating junk food the whole time) that when I go to bed it's from exhaustion. I didn’t brush at lunch because brushing at work feels weird and I have little time at work. These sound like excuses but that's all in how you view the information.

I finally said "I know I can't change overnight." I needed to admit my flaws and work to change in my own way. I didn't start by brushing three times a day, I started by buying toothpicks. My dentist didn't recommend this to me (though she has been very helpful). Of course she said start with brushing well and flossing when you can. But a good schedule for brushing was my worst problem. So, I kept toothpicks at my desk at work and home, and I started to use them.

Next I tackled brushing, but when I brushed made no sense. Why brush at home right before you have a snack? Well, you have to get the old junk off sometime. Sometimes, I stopped wanting to have a snack after I got my teeth all clean. Then that sometimes turned into most of the time. My goals weren't goals. Every time I've heard someone say "set maintainable goals" my brain has ignored it and said "the word goal means something that's hard to attain, probably even too hard most of the time." Now I was working with my lifestyle to change it for the better. Eventually, I started flossing. Again it wasn't when I was supposed to, it was whenever I felt like it, and I kept floss at my desk at home. If we fast forward a bit, and while I'm still not the dentist's ideal patient, but I'm always better than I was the last visit. I've had my first visit with zero new cavities, and the hygienist remarks on how much progress I've made. The best part is I know I'm never going to regress now. I can feel it.

Regressing at this point wouldn't just be disappointing; it's now against my nature. A skeptic to my pattern of change might claim that I never hit my goal. I don't take perfect care of my teeth, but that was never the goal. The goal was to improve, because improvement is addictive and fun. When you actually improve yourself, not just do a hard change (like giving up an addiction and replacing the behavior elsewhere, even if it is a healthier addictive lifestyle), but really make yourself better in a way that you like, you start to enjoy it. It's like the difference between finding a game you really like and improving at it, as opposed to studying really hard to get a better score on a test.

Monday, May 21, 2012

On Blogging...

When I started this blog, I did it with the full intention of sharing my daily life and feelings. Over the last few years, it's evolved slowly and I've moved away from sharing my daily life.

Why?

Because...

I am really, really boring. And I'm okay with that. I'm never going to be one of those people who does something just so they can blog about it. It's just not me. I prefer to be authentic.

Because...

There are pieces of my life, that while I have written up, that I'm torn about sharing. I'm a particularly private person which rather contradictory for a blogger.

Because...

I'm no motivational speaker. I'm more likely to tell you to shut up, stop talking and just do it. People could get a lot more done if they wasted less time thinking and talking about things.

Obviously, I haven't had much to say lately. I've been putting most of my energy in Diablo 3, work and exercise. I have several posts sitting half-finished in my list, and I'm not sure where to find the time to finish them or even if I like them.

With all that said, I'd love to hear suggestions or requests about anything you'd like me to blog about. Leave me a comment down below, email me, or send me a Google chat message at runsqrlrun.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Race Report: 10th Annual Westborough Spring Festival 5K

In testing my limits with this piriformis injury, I've found that I can run 5K without any pain. That meant I could finish the 10th Annual Westborough Spring Festival 5K, which I had signed up for over two months ago. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't very nervous about it because of how little I'd run in the few weeks leading up to it. I gave Eric a nice wide range to look for me, 25 to 30 minutes. I was certain that I'd finish slower than normal, but as usual, I always underestimate myself.
This is the third year that I've run this 5K, so I'm very familiar with the hilly course. Upon lining up, I got control of my nerves and just kept repeating a positive mantra.Normally I break down each kilometer or mile for my races but this one is the first one where it didn't seem to matter to me. I pushed up the hills at the right time, and I flew down the hill after the halfway mark. I didn't stop for water. I passed several people going up the hill and several people going down the hill. In the last push to the finish line, I was genuinely pushing myself as hard as I could to cross it. As I flew by Eric, I heard him go exclaiming about how speedy I looked. Since he was playing videographer, I even have a video to share of my finish:
I've watched the video several times now and I'm so happy that I bought my zero drops. I feel like they've helped me improve my stride and cadence, which I can tell since I don't see any noticeable heel landings in my finish. My official finish time was 26:47, which while slower than last year, was a much better time than I expected.

Do you get race nerves every time? How do you deal with them?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chocolate-Gingerbread Icebox Cookies

On a whim last week, I suggested to my mom that we should have a cookie swap this week. I spent an entire evening poring over my Martha Stewart's Cookie cookbook. I knew I wanted to do something with chocolate because I have about a pound of high quality cocoa powder that is just sitting around from my Christmas time hot cocoa making stint. So when I saw the Chocolate-Ginger Leaves and Acorns recipe, I decided to put my own spin on it.

Chocolate-Gingerbread Icebox Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookie cookbook
2.5 cups (320g) all-purpose flour
0.5 cup (60g) cocoa powder, Dutch-processed
0.5 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
0.25 teaspoon ground cloves
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.75 cup (1.5) sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
0.75 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
0.5 cup (120g) unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely diced

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first nine ingredients. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until mixture appears fluffy.
3. Add the egg, molasses and crystallized ginger. Mix until combined.
4. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low until just combined.
5. Halve the dough. Roll each half into a log roughly 1.5" in diameter. Freeze until solid.
6. Preheat the oven to 325°F. While the oven is heating, remove one log at a time and slice into 0.25" thick slices.
7. Bake for 11-13 minutes, then allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes.
9. Eat cookies. With milk, preferably. Enjoy!
When I set out to make this recipe, I fully intended to make Chocolate-Gingerbread men complete with cute little faces. Upon attempting to roll out the dough on my silicone mat, I discerned that using cookie cutters simply wasn't going to happen. The dough was simply too sticky. I broke out the dough scraper, scraped it into two balls, stuck some plastic wrap around it and rolled it into two logs to freeze. Once they were completely frozen, I sliced and baked them up.

They turned out a little more cakey than I'd intended and the ginger flavor was there but not that strong. Eric suggested that I stick some cream between them and call them whoopie pies. He's actually got a great point with this one. I could easily turn these into homemade Oreo Cakesters by dropping the ginger and adding some cream filling.

Oh the possibilities!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Running...or not

I have a confession to make.

I haven't been running, well, at least not any sort of structured running plan.
That 10K I was training for? Not going to happen. Mostly due in part to the lingering piriformis problem that is slowly (but surely) going away, but also because some genius moved it to July 18th at 6:30 PM. I detest running in the heat and July/August are a couple of the hottest months in New England.

Over vacation, I spent a lot of time contemplating this, so it's certainly not a decision I came to lightly. I'm actively choosing to limit my running for the next several months and focus on something else. What something else, you ask? Well...
  • I signed up to take the Zumba Basic Instructor class on June 30th with the intended goal of teaching at my work gym. I'll still take my own Zumba classes at Core though. I'd miss Elena too much if I stopped going!
  • I'm genuinely committing myself to the New Rules of Lifting for Women program. I suspect that I have a muscle imbalance, but it's not confirmed. (My doctor doesn't think PT would help me, despite my protestations. Maybe it's time to find a new doc?) I'm already two weeks into Stage 1 and I'm really enjoying. Even if I dread the deadlifts. My deadlifts are extremely wimpy, which furthers my muscle imbalance theory.
After a few months and hopefully when all of my piriformis pain dissipates, I will slowly begin adding some mileage back in. Eric and one of our friends from work (Hi Mark!) told me they want to run a 5K in October so perhaps that will be my first real race post-injury. I'm holding them to it because it helps me to remember that I'm not giving up running, but simply helping myself become a less-likely-to-be-injured runner in the future.

Have you ever had to put running because continuing would just make things worse? How did you cope with it? I'd love to hear some strategies!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Canceled

As women, I'm sure we've all seen these headlines more than we'd care to admit:

"Flat Abs Fast!"

"Eat this and burn more fat!"

"Drop Two Sizes: Boost your metabolism and see results -- fast!"

"Lose 5lbs in 5 days!"

I've decided I simply cannot deal with this baloney anymore, so I canceled all of my girly-mag subscriptions. I've wanted to do this for quite some time, but there was always one helpful article, snippet or factoid that kept me subscribing. I've always taken the sensationalist headlines that promise ridiculous and impossible things with a grain of salt. However, I recently realized that they just propagate the stupid concept that weight loss should be quick and easy, that lifting pink 1-lb dumbbells are going to produce the results you want and that eating 1500 kCal a day is a "perfect flat belly day."

 Do you subscribe to any magazines? Which ones and have you ever thought about canceling them?