health update, the last half year or so?

What the hell happened to last year’s health kick? Well, it kinda ran off the rails after I joined Automattic. My weight crept back up, I stopped paying attention to what I was eating, and my exercise routine was not so much a routine anymore. The results spoke for themselves — I felt gross and bloated, tired, not very happy. Boo.

So, in January I hopped (or, in my given condition, sluggishly oozed) back on the wagon, and now I’m feeling confident enough to tell you how things have been going.

January

  • Started Weight Watchers on a whim, after seeing one too many TV commercials. Was suspicious, but their “points” system makes it much easier to keep track of food, and the iPhone app is handy when we’re grocery shopping.
  • Also started playing Health Month again, because I noticed a lot of the habits I tracked last year have stuck — which is great! I regularly take my vitamins and floss my teeth. Maybe tracking some other healthy habits will help them stick, too. My rules involve drinking more water, hitting my target step goal, and remembering to track food.
  • Resumed a near-daily exercise routine, mostly Just Dance, and felt out of shape and silly, bouncing around like a monkey in my living room.
  • Went to Hawaii and put WW on hold (so much eating out) but did not come back fatter. Win/win.

February

  • Lost some weight. Did not feel too deprived while doing so.
  • Continued working out.
  • Added a new rule to Health Month — make an effort to get more quality alone time. I’m terrible about taking time for myself.

March

  • Lost more weight. Was warned I was losing too fast, so I started keeping closer track of Activity points, and eating them. I like eating.
  • Bought a food scale to more accurately measure portions.
  • 45-minute Just Dance workouts no longer made me want to die.

Now

  • I’ve lost 30 pounds since mid-January, over 35 total from after Gwen was born.
  • Fashion bonus: My jeans fit comfortably again.
  • Started Couch-to-5K. Just Dance is now easy, I need a physical challenge. It’s pretty hard to imagine me, jogging, but I’m sure stranger things have happened. I just can’t think of what…

Next 3 Months

  • I’d like to be able to jog a mile in less than 12 minutes, fairly comfortably, without needing to walk.
  • I need to set a new goal weight. I hope to lose between 12 & 24 pounds by the end of June.
  • Keep on keepin’ on.
😃+

may, a health update

May got off to a rough start with Health Month. The Vegas trip, a stomach flu (isn’t it always a stomach flu?) and the new job took their toll, and I made the mistake of trying to take on too many new goals at once. As a result, I was down to something like one health point by the end of week 1. Oh well. I finished the month strong and picked my rules for June a bit more carefully.

Since I have more freedom working from home, I’m experimenting with a part-time standing desk arrangement, which means I’m spending more time on my feet. So far I like it, although I’ll like it a lot more when I have an actual standing desk! Right now I’m using the kitchen counter which is not exactly ergonomically sound. Already this is proving fruitful for my activity level. I spend a lot of time moving around, doing light activities and taking short breaks in between tasks. Also: There may be random kitchen dancing.

No one told me a standing desk would make me a bigger dork…

Another thing that’s awesome about working from home? Lunch. Specifically, I have the time and resources to make a healthful lunch from scratch without the pressure of remembering to pack something the night before. No more soggy sandwiches, no more coordinating with coworkers for microwave time, no more frozen meals. I’ve eaten a BAS (translation: Big-Ass Salad) almost every day for the last three weeks. My new favorite lunch is mixed greens topped with some combination of grape tomatoes, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, turkey, sprouts, or green olives. I credit my mom with introducing me to the BAS lifestyle and I’m hooked.

And finally, I’ve started using arm weights a few times a week. I got my Fitbit Aria scale this month so now I can track body fat percentage. I’m hoping to build a little more muscle and improve my upper body strength.

The results? Well, there aren’t any to speak of yet, but that’s OK. I know I’m making better choices so I feel good about that no matter what the scale says.

😃+

health update, january

January is always a challenging month for me, personally. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to start the new year in January–I’m hardly up for tackling major resolutions in the dead of winter. Wait until spring, then I might feel inclined to change my life, but this month is only good for hibernation.

In any case, I knew last week would be a wash due to Tim’s trip–playing chauffer to the girls meant no walking to and from work, and obviously I didn’t count on having a stomach virus. It was not a good week for exercise. I lost just over 10 pounds thanks to the flu, 5.5 of which I’ve gained back in the last week. But hey, that’s still a net loss of about 5 pounds, bringing the grand to-date total to 16 pounds lost. I can’t say I see the difference, but I feel better.

It’s hard to stay motivated now that it’s colder outside but I manage. This week I tried walking to Gwen’s daycare in the evenings, about twice the distance I’d normally walk in one trip (roughly 1.5 miles), but it’s very cold and a little treacherous due to ice on the sidewalks. On the upside, I’ve found it’s easy for me to walk that far now–that wasn’t the case three months ago! When spring comes it will be the perfect walk to end my workday.

Other than that, I’ve moved a lot of my exercise time indoors due to single-digit or lower temps. Tim is jumping on the “get healthier” bandwagon with me, and we’ve started playing Wii Sports in the evenings (I walk or jog in place between turns). I have yet to convince him to try Just Dance, but someday, someday. 😉

I’m still playing Health Month with success–it appeals to the overachiever in me. Despite last week’s setback, I haven’t had much difficulty following my rules, so in February I plan on tackling 6 rules instead of 3. I worry that I’m upping the ante too much too soon, but then remind myself, what’s the worst that could happen? Plus I’ve built in a bit of flexibility such that I get a free day each week.

One of the things I’ve been pondering is my motivation for continuing this project in the long term… what about it will keep me going after this has become routine? When the weight stops coming off? Or when I suddenly just don’t feel like doing it? My biggest fear is falling off the bandwagon and not getting back on. It’s funny because I’m really enjoying this new routine and you’d think the enjoyment would be motivation enough, but it’s not that simple. I suppose it just goes to show, even enjoyable things require effort.

Part of this means looking at past experiences and examining what caused them to fail, so I can make this round “stick.” A few points come to mind…

  • In the past, one failure meant total failure. Broke the no candy rule? Eat the whole bag. Forgot to exercise one day? Stop exercising for the rest of the week. I can’t let myself get bogged down with slippery-slope thoughts.
  • I have a tendency to let my actions (or lack thereof) have an unhealthy impact on my self-esteem. How much I eat, what I eat, what I weigh and how I exercise has no bearing on my worth as a person…. except in my mind. A single failure does not mean I am a failure. It’s a necessary distinction if I’m going to be successful in the long term.
  • I’m easily discouraged by big goals and I often fail to take into account the smaller steps and time required to achieve more complex things. I didn’t have the patience for “big picture” thinking in my early 20’s, but now I’m starting to understand the value of making small, incremental changes over time.
  • I have a tendency to set myself up for failure by being too inflexible. For example, forcing myself to do one type of exercise for a set amount of time every day. This is something I’ve become better at in recent months–finding alternatives when the usual routine falls through or when I simply want a change of proverbial scenery. Allowing the occasional indulgence such that I don’t feel trapped or left wanting.
  • And finally, boredom. If my mind isn’t occupied or if there isn’t a short-term goal to be met, I’m less likely to enjoy something, and therefore much less likely to continue doing it. Ever since I got a phone this hasn’t been a problem–there’s always a game to play or a show to watch, right at my fingertips. I’m surrounded by tech–“boring” can no longer be an excuse.

I’m happy to say I’ve reached the point where this new lifestyle is not a huge physical challenge for me. I feel much stronger than when I started this process back in October, and it’s nice to see a noticeable improvement. At some point I’ll want to step it up, but for now I want to continue enjoying the experience without pushing it.

The real challenge is a mental one. Committing to my goals while at the same time accepting the occasional failure and moving past it (better yet, accepting that an indulgence is just that–a worthy indulgence, not a failure!) It’s hard. Getting past that annoying little voice in my head that says “I don’t wanna!” from the moment I get up until the time I go to bed. I suppose what I’m really trying to figure out is where that voice is coming from so I can shut her up… or at least get better at ignoring her.

😃+

2011 in review

It’s that time again! 2011’s highlights:

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way: We had a baby!

serious cute

I spent most of the first nine months of 2011 gestating this cutie, and as such, 75% of the year is a blur. But yeah, she’s pretty awesome. I can officially remove “Have a home birth” from the life list, since Gwen is most definitely our last child and, once again, the home birth didn’t work out. In retrospect, I’m not disappointed with either of my babies’ births. The experiences were just as powerful and life-altering despite having taken place in a hospital–and I got two amazing kids out of the deal so I can’t feel bad about that!

In July Tim started a new work-from-home job, putting his WordPress expertise to work at Automattic. While this isn’t my accomplishment to share, it’s certainly had an impact on our family. Prior to this we worked together in the same office for several years, but he quickly realized he couldn’t keep up with both workloads and resigned from his position at the university in August. The new job also means more travelling and that’s been difficult for both of us. So far he’s been to Montreal and Budapest, and next month he’ll spend a week in Hawaii (the stinker!) Despite those challenges, I really can’t complain–his new schedule offers more flexibility than the university could, the benefits are excellent and it’s a significant step up in his career. We’re still figuring out how to navigate this new world, but I have a feeling it will get easier as time goes on.

I had my gallbladder removed shortly after Gwen was born. Although certainly not something I wanted, in one sense I’m glad it happened. It was the wake-up call that allowed me to take a critical look at my daily habits and take steps to better myself. I bought a Fitbit which motivated me to start exercising and monitoring calories again, and after just a few weeks I feel ten times better about myself and my abilities. It’s a careful balance between doing the work and becoming obsessive about it, and while I don’t always win that mental battle, I’m getting better.

Creatively I don’t have much to show for myself. I’m not feeling the illustration bug, my shops have been dormant most of the year, and I have a few ideas for photo shoots but it’s too darn cold outside and there’s not enough room in our house. Meh. I did spend a few months teaching myself about WordPress theme development and crossed off “learn PHP” from my life list, so that’s something!

Three of my list items had to do with the kids–make their Halloween costumes, make Ellie a birthday cake (I didn’t bake it but I decorated it, so I’m counting this one) and take them to Santa’s Village–so it’s easy to see where my focus was this year. However, Tim and I also took our first “long” trip away from Ellie in April to see Iron & Wine in concert (something I never wrote about due to pregnancy yuckiness) which was fun. And I visited my extended family in North Carolina for the first time, crossing off another state on my “visit all 50 states” goal.

Overall, I would say this was a banner year for personal and family growth, not so much creativity. That’s an acceptable exchange, though. I’ve devoted many years to creative pursuits, so it’s only fair that other things come into focus for a bit. As the kids get older I will have more time to spend with my projects, but right now it’s all about them. Seeing how much Ellie has grown and then having our second child has made me keenly aware of just how fast it goes by.

Next year I’m looking forward to more of the same–more introspection as I get closer to my thirties and more time spent enjoying my family. I’m hoping to travel a bit, too–nothing crazy long distance, but now that we have a bit more disposable income I want to get out of the state occasionally!

Happy new year, all!

😃+

getting healthy! monthly check-in

It’s going…  OK. I’ve lost 2 more pounds since I last wrote… not as much as I would have liked (I was shooting for 1lb/week), but still, a loss is a loss. Considering how one of those weeks was particularly difficult due to travel, and how I haven’t really pushed myself very hard, and how I just went back to work in late November… let’s just say there were enough obstacles that I should probably consider those two pounds a huge success under the circumstances.

(And hey, my house still looks fantastic!)

I was particularly nervous about going back to work, but I think I’ve found a routine that’s going to stick. Currently I walk to and from the office most days, which nets me about 4-5k steps total. Tim takes the girls to school/daycare so I’m free to walk in the morning, then I’ll sometimes walk home for lunch or across campus to Ellie’s school at the end of the day. Two of the three walks per day, plus a concentrated effort to get up from my desk every half hour, is usually enough activity to finish my evenings with relatively little effort. There’s some flexibility built in and I’m always on the lookout for alternatives in the event I can’t do one of my daily walks–for example, I walk to meetings whenever possible or I’ll jog up and down the stairs in my building during breaks. If it gets too cold to walk, I plan on firing up the Wii again.

I also started playing Health Month in earnest, and while I thought the idea was a little hokey at first, I’m surprised at just how motivating it is. I haven’t walked less than 10k steps a day since the start of December because I’m held accountable to that goal every day. Funny how something so simple can be so effective.

There’s also something to be said for the fact that I feel better, not just physically but mentally as well. I noticed after our trip to Santa’s Village that I was not nearly as exhausted as I would have been before–I was tired and sore being on my feet all day, sure, but I didn’t need the following two days just to recover. I also feel more capable, if that makes sense–tasks that used to seem impossible become manageable when I remind myself that little steps add up to big things. It’s a refreshing new way of looking at the world and I’m enjoying it.

So in summary, I’m keeping at it. Some days are easier than others and I suppose it will always be that way. I have to remind myself that weight loss, while a nice side effect, should not be my primary measurement of progress. I’d be happy to maintain my current weight as long as I continue to make small changes toward bettering my health. I want this process to evolve organically in hopes it will become habit and not a dreaded daily chore.

😃+