I Am That Girl Now

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Gonna have to face it, I'm addicted to tea

I have traded my sugar and caffiene addictions for a decaf tea addiction, it seems. Folks, I am officially in love with Stash's Decaf Vanilla Nut Creme. I am considering buying 100 g loose-leaf online, which would be a good deal except for the fact that shipping costs $4.95 for some reason. Apparently this is to encourage me to purchase more than one thing, because it's still $4.95 shipping if I buy two.

Other problem: I was telling myself that I was going to save my pin money this paycheck, since there wasn't anything in particular I wanted to buy. A few months' worth of this and I'll have enough to buy a new laptop, which is looming large in my future as my 4-year-old one keeps getting more and more unstable. So I'm torn between being stingy, and having tea.

Fuck it. I can wait a while for tea. I'm going on a grocery run this weekend and I'll pick some more up then, and I can squeeze in a loose-leaf order on my next paycheck. If there's another habit I need to break, I'm pretty sure it's the habit of getting all MUST BUY THING NOW and rushing headlong into purchases.

The shoulder is limping towards healing; it doesn't hurt that much anymore, and I've been avoiding any movement that might irk it. I've been doing the little rehab exercises for it. I'm hoping that in another week or so I might be able to do yoga again. Knock on wood. More research must be done. My Hub wants me to go to the doctor; I, on the other hand, am thinking that since it's not hurting much anymore, and since everything I've read tells me that the doctor will essentially tell me to rest it, ice it, and rehab it... and, most importantly (don't you just love our medical system?), I don't want to end up having a test done that sounds like a good idea at the time but ends up not being covered by insurance and costing me another $300.


The thing is, the threat of making me go to the doctor is actually making me act sane about my injury this time, so that's a good thing. I'm absolutely not going to push this. I do not like pain, and I do not like being hurt, and while normally my "I don't like being hurt" thing means that I get impatient with my injuries and push through them, this time I'm thinking that impatient would be bad.

Impatient always means bad. I have to stop flipping out.

Oh, good news: I did actually get to writing last night, all set up in my little cubbyhole in the bedroom. Quiet, no interruptions, no distractions, all good. I'm pretty happy about that.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

For want of a shoulder a kingdom was lost

So, it's about as official as it can get without an actual doctor's appointment (our new insurance cards for the year have not arrived yet): I've tweaked my right rotator cuff something fierce. I got all excited about the new gym and even though I knew my shoulder had been being weird, I plunged in anyway.

Folks, this was dumb. I've spent the past several days re-working the way I deal with everything from putting on my coat to reaching for toilet paper. I've discovered that until further notice, I shouldn't be driving because turning the steering wheel hurts my shoulder, too. I've been learning the ways of getting things off higher shelves one-handed. Lesson learned: when shoulder hurts, do not attempt to work through the pain. PAIN GETS WORSE.

This is depressing. No yoga, no yogalates, no more personal training; for the time being I'm stuck doing all lower-body stuff. Worse, I'm limited in my choices of lower-body stuff, because I can't use barbells or dumbbells, and I can't support myself on all fours. SON OF A BITCH. I've grudgingly gone back to the machines, doing leg presses and calf raises and whatnot, and daily cardio on machines that do not use "the arms on (my) upper body" (as the wacky recumbant bike put it). Cardio is good; it supposedly gets blood flowing to the injury and helps things heal. We shall see. In the meantime, I'm grumpy. I want want want to be plunging headfirst into yoga and such, and to train with weights, and I am DENIED. This sucks.

I have not been eating the best. Still going without sugar and desserts, but all weekend I was craving stupid crunchy foods like chips and popcorn; I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm PMSing. I ate a fast-food meal from Wendy's and spent the rest of the day feeling nasty and bloated. Ick. No more of that.

My Hub is not helping on the food front, as he is on a bulking diet. Getting him to eat his vegetables is, shall we say, difficult; he's tired of eating so he tries to get as many calories per food as he can, without diving off the deep end into truly horrible foods. I've got him eating sweet potatoes on a regular basis, at least (cubed, roasted; God's perfect food), which means he's getting some nutrition besides protein. And I've converted him to spelt. It could be worse, you know?

Still sad. I'm doing my little exercises that are supposed to keep me from getting frozen shoulder, and once things stop hurting I guess I get to start rehabbing the damn shoulder with light weights. In the meantime, I am bereft of yoga. Waaaah!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Post-Personal-Trainer Update

Actually, the hell with that for a minute, I have to tell you the much more amazing story first.

My Hub and I went in different directions once we got to the gym tonight, I with the personal trainer and Hub off to the locker room to change. I didn't know what he was planning on doing for his cardio, or what floor he was going to be on, or anything. I didn't catch sight of him at any point while I was with the personal trainer, and once I was done, I still couldn't find him. I went to the locker room briefly so I could pee, and on the way back out this guy walked across my field of vision. Tall, medium weight, dark hair that was all spiky on top, good looking dude. I kind of glanced at him and then kept looking for my Hub.

It took a full thirty seconds to realize that wait, no, that guy was my Hub. His hair was dark with sweat, and he was wearing a different shirt than I'd expected (a t-shirt which, six months ago, was skin-tight on him and is now on the baggy-comfortable side), but mostly I just plain did not recognize him because this is the first time since he's lost weight that I just sort of ran into him somewhere, rather than knowing where he'd be in advance. It really smacked me upside the head that oh, my God, he looks so much different, and he looks great, and oh my GOD, I'm married to him!

Hell of a thing. Wow.

Anyway, about that session with the personal trainer.

Not bad. She totally went with what I was after: working with free weights and my own body weight, doing all these exercises that I already knew, but a bit differently. For instance: I've done ball squats before, but hadn't done them and then stopped in sitting position (AAAAAH); I've done lunges before, but not walking lunges, and especially not walking lunges with a little bouncing pause before going back up. And ow, ow, ow, abs.

So, meeting with her again Monday, and that's it for my freebies so that's probably it for my personal training. Which is fine. I will admit that I'm less apt to cheat with someone watching and counting and pushing me, although I am twice as likely to whine (and did so), but I think I'll be able to have my Hub do that for me.

I did discover that it's a great idea to watch myself in the mirror; I discovered that I have a tendency to drop my right shoulder, which I imagine has not been helpful. Mirrors are good. I can't make eye contact with myself, because it seems so forward, but hey, I'll take all this step by step.

Oh, and a bonus: WOMEN IN THE FREEWEIGHT AREA. HOT DAMN. Lifting real weights, too, and in general with better form than some of the guys. Some of the guys were clearly trying to start their January off by biting off more than they could chew; dude, if you are on a machine working your quads and the pads bounce off your shins at the top of each rep, something is wrong. The New Year's crowd pays off, I guess, because if I had to be a newbie in the gym at least I'm getting to be a newbie when there are more annoying newbies to distract from me.

I got to get a look at the hip-hop dance class and I am intrigued. Yet another thing that I want to try. I'm definitely taking the yogalates and yoga classes again. I wish the yoga classes were distributed throughout the week, instead of two days in a row, because I'd love to take yoga twice a week. Hell, I wish there was a morning yoga class; I'd totally go.

Anyway. Gotta go. Must wind down before sleeping.

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I went to my first real live yoga class last night. I'm not quite sure what's different from doing this with DVDs, besides that there were a bunch of different poses and, well, a live instructor, but by the end of the hour-long class I was bendy, floppy, full of goodwill, and absolutely drenched in sweat. I'm totally going next week. It fucks up my sleep schedule, but the hell with it, I'll deal.

Things I have learned:

1) I ought not to be lurking nearby on a recumbent bike when the class before yoga ends. By the time I was off the bike and headed for the mats, all the proper mats were gone and I ended up making do with a weird cushy foam one that really did not give me the traction I needed. By the time I grabbed a dumb cushy mat, a bajillion people were already in place and I had to scrabble out a little room for myself behind a pillar.

2) If possible, I need to get on the right-hand side of the class area, because the left-hand side is open to entirely too much noise from various exercise machines and the acoustics get all wiggy. This is particularly important because there is apparently no such thing as a headphone set for instructors; while the guy doing the hardcore ab class at 7:30 had a bellowing voice that carried easily over the booming music to the back of the room and beyond, the gal doing our yoga instruction was soft-spoken (either by her own nature, to suit the nature of the yoga, or both) and I had to strain to listen.

3) I shouldn't be startled by the mirrors. Yup, that's me, and no, I don't look like I think I look, and yup, my hair goes insane when it's sweaty, and yup, I am indeed wearing that in public. Nobody cares.

4) Do not eat beans before yoga when one is going to a class in public. I think this may be self-explanatory.

5) I can actually do this. This shouldn't have taken me by surprise; I've been doing yoga via various DVDs for almost three years now. For some reason I still expected that going to an actual class would mean that I'd get shown up, exposed, embarrassed, and so it was a shock to discover that I was keeping up with the class perfectly well. Maybe it was that there were some complete newbies there, so I had something to compare with and realize that hey, I've come a long way. I recognized all the poses, either from experience or from glancing contact via websites, and while I wasn't the greatest in the world at some of them (particularly the new ones), I could do them. I remember that back when I started I couldn't hold downward-facing dog for very long, and that I couldn't lean over and touch the floor, or sit on the floor and lean down to grab the soles of my feet. I'm okay. I'm on my way.

Tonight is my first free session with my personal trainer. Still nervous, but looking forward to it. My Hub is cranky about the fact that, since he just did his weight-lifting day yesterday, he has nothing to do at the gym while I have that appointment; the only class that's running at that point is a hip-hop dance class, and my woefully uncoordinated Hub is not up for that. Oh, well. He'll figure out something. I told him that he didn't have to come along, but he figures that the more days he goes to the gym, the better.

In specific Hub news, he's still trying to lose the remains of his pudge, but mostly at this point he's trying to get stronger and more muscular. He's eating more as a result, and is finding it difficult to eat more while still eating clean. His general mood is much improved, though, because since his blood sugar is never really low, he never has a chance to lapse into one of those hunger-fueled grumps of his. Needless to say, that is totally fine with me. If I can avoid having to deal with a grumpy Hub, my life is ten times easier.

In other news, preliminary investigation into childcare and school costs seem to indicate that we could afford a baby (particularly combined with the fact that we'd get to put money in a pre-tax savings account for childcare purposes). Buying a house, on the other hand: not so much. We need more for a down-payment so we'd be able to afford the mortgage payments. I'm hashing out a vague plan based on this information: kid first, condo after. It hurts nothing for us to rent for another few years.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rarin' to go

Thing I have discovered about yogalates: OW, OW, I DID NOT KNOW I HAD THOSE MUSCLES. Oh, my achin' abs. I was describing the location of my aching muscles to my sister last night, she who had told me of the wonders of pilates in the past, and she started laughing because she knew exactly what I meant.

I've decided to go to the yoga class tonight, in spite of it being at 8:15. Hell with it; I'll figure out how to make my sleep schedule adjust. I want to take a yoga class from someone who can personally tell me what to do, dammit. My Hub has his lifting day today, so he'll do that while I'm a-yoga-ing.

Ooh, and I have a scheduled appointment for Wednesday for one of my two free sessions with the personal trainer, a lovely gal that I spoke to last night. The good thing is that I actually know what I want this time, and I have a lot more knowledge and know-how than the last time I encountered a personal trainer (a fitness assessment that did not go well). I'm looking forward to this. By God, if we've got a gym membership, I am going to use the HELL out of it.

Seriously, I feel like I've done a complete 180 on this topic since Sunday. MOTIVATION. It helps that in the midst of cleaning out one of our closets I found a box of all my awesome skinny clothes, and had a day of mourning for the fact that I could not put them on and prance about. First that, then the gym visit, and I'm in. That's it, that's the end, I am SO FUCKING DOING THIS. I'm heading down to my alma mater for a wacky reunion of sorts (a favorite professor is retiring and this has sparked a department-wide multi-year gathering) in April. Three months. I can do a lot in three months.

More, I just want to be Fitness!Meg. I have pretty much zero motivation for running, which is fine because I am not currently doing any of that. I do, however, have vast amounts of motivation for lifting weights, doing yoga, doing yogalates, and (when it warms up enough to use the pool) swimming. That's fine. This will be good.

I figure that between dinnertime and yoga time, I'll park myself at my new writing station. I am not going to figure out what to write, I'm just going to see what comes out, and noodle around with that. I've finally concluded that in writing, as well as in fitness, I just need to do what interests me, instead of what I think I should be doing, because a) it'll be more fun, b) it'll actually get done that way, and c) it usually works out just fine.

Random moment of love: I love Trader Joe's decaf chocolate-flavored tea. I do not think it tastes like chocolate, but it is warm and smells like vanilla and coconut and is strangely reminiscent of chocolate in a non-sweet way. I tried it with a splash of milk and with some stevia (still no sugar for this girl), and thought that was merely "eh". Plain, however, is very nice indeed. As I phase out the caffinated teas and enter the world of decaf tea, this sort of discovery is just plain awesome.

Oh, and in other random news: I've gone off on my annual January house-porn binge. Scouring the listings to see what's available in our area is a strange obsessive hobby of mine. I think at some time this year I'm going to clean up our credit reports and tidy our finances and see what sort of money we can qualify for in a mortgage. Yeah. Crazy.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

I guess we belong to a gym now

I have to juggle some finances. And a discussion must be had with my Hub, who has now pushed us into four major purchases/financial obligations in the past four months. I have to do some calming down first, though, because if I'm freaking out, not only do I not have coherent discussions, but I manage to freak my Hub out, too.

I do like the gym. I liked the yogalates (it took me five tries to pronounce that) class that I took; it mostly served to point out how pitiful my abs are, which I kind of knew already but now am mildly depressed about. But it was fun nonetheless, and the instructor was really nice, and I really want to try a yoga class next.

I am less freaked out about the freeweight area now, although as per usual there are, like, NO females in that area. I'm planning on doing a little more scouting in that area for the next week; apparently we get two free sessions with a personal trainer, so, yay.

I had to fill out a form explaining what my goals are. "Lose fat, gain muscle" was not one of the check-box options, so I put it in myself. "How much weight do you want to lose?" the form asked, and I was like, "..." Dude. I do not give a rat's ass what the scale says; ask me about body fat percentage, THEN I'll have an answer for you.

What do I want? I want to be able to lift heavy objects-- or, at the very least, myself. I want to be less flabby, more muscular. I want to be able to do a proper squat, to be able to do a proper push-up, and to be able to do chin-ups (I just discovered the assisted-pull-up machine; this is AWESOME). I want better stability and balance, so if someone suggests I use machines rather than freeweights, I will be cranky. I want to improve my flexibility. I want a metabolism that stabilizes at about 1800 calories/day. I want to be able to lift with good form and good technique, so that a) I don't hurt myself and b) I don't look like an ass in the weight room. I want to be able to kick up into a handstand against a wall like my sister can, and to be able to bend in half. I want to be able to run a 5K again. I want to look good in a bathing suit. I want good circulation, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and higher bone density. I want, in short, to be in the best shape of my life in preparation for some of the hardest work of my life.

Needless to say, the space given for me to state my goals was not big enough for me to write all that, so I went with "lose fat, build muscle". Ah well.

My one problem with the gym is that all the classes I want to try are at 8:30 PM on weekdays; seriously, I do not want to exercise at 8:30 PM. I want to be home, and I want to be doing relaxing things, because I have to be in bed by 9:30 PM so I can get up at 5:30 AM. Grrr.

Anyway. We now have gym memberships. I need to put together a little travel-pack of shampoo and whatnot, since after last night's class I was UTTERLY SOAKED in sweat, but realized after the fact that I had forgotten to bring any sorts of soap or other toiletries. Gah.


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Friday, January 05, 2007

And in other news

A list!

1) I've been pondering the question, "If you woke up tomorrow morning without a weight/eating problem, what problem would you focus on instead?" Answer: my problem focusing, and more specifically focusing on writing. I'm getting next to nothing written these days, and yet the one day the other week when I hid in the bedroom with my laptop all day with my earplugs in, I got a LOT written. I really, really, really need to work on focusing. Mental imagery work, here I come.

2) I'm coming to terms with how I write. First comes a few chunks of stuff-- the things in my head that stuck in my mind. Then I mess around with those for a while, rearranging words, editing, adding stuff, expanding on images, rearranging whole chunks of things, until I have a more substantial chunk of stuff. Then I add a few more chunks, and repeat the whole process. Initial, fresh-from-the-brain chunks are never, ever pretty, and the original words and phrases will almost never make it through the messing-around-and-expanding process that comes after it. This process has made several of my friends threaten to murder me if I don't just sit down and WRITE, but the more I do this, the more I realize... it's just the way I work. I keep thinking of this special I saw on the Discovery Channel or some such, where they showed various tunnels (focusing, I believe, on the Big Dig and the Chunnel) and how first they'd have a machine that dug a little ways, and then they'd quick build the structure of the tunnel right in that fresh area to make sure it wouldn't collapse. I'm like that, when I come to writing; if I don't shore up each bit as I go, the whole thing caves in. I can't wait until I've dug the whole tunnel before building the structure under it. It doesn't mean I'm a bad writer, it just means that's how I work, and I have to expect that and work with it.

3) Related to both 1) and 2), we're rearranging our apartment, and may be able to put a wee writing station into the bedroom, where I will sit in blessed isolation from husband and cats, with my earplugs in, and work on my damn writing.

4) My Hub has gotten all determined to join a gym. I am leery of this, but unlike my experience with Bally's (who are, I must say, the damn devil incarnate), it looks like we'd be able to get out of this one if we agree it's not working into the way we live. My main concerns are as follows: a) that the gym, while in walking distance from our apartment, is not in EASY walking distance from our apartment, b) that due to this issue we'd end up using the car to get there in inclement weather and I HATE the idea of being dependent on the car for something, c) since it's not right near our apartment or our workplace, and since we tend to go all homebound after work, we'd have to make a determined effort to go to the fucking gym, and d) it costs money, and I hate spending money. On the other hand, it has a pool (sadly, for summer use only; it's up on the roof), it's NOT underground (the Bally's I belonged to was, in fact, underground, and this weighed upon my soul like you would not believe), it has a lot of different cardio machines as well as your basic indoor jogging track, it appears to have a good line-up of classes, and the cost is not as oppresive as most of the other places around here.

We have a set of one-day passes that we're planning on using tomorrow. Gulp. I can't help it, I get very nervous at the idea of exercising around other human beings, particularly guys, and the likelihood of me being the lone female in the freeweight section is quite high. I hate being the lone female anywhere, particularly in a situation where there's going to be a certain amount of expectation that I won't be able to measure up to the group norm. (Computer classes are bearable, because generally I will kick everyone else's ass by the end of the class, but weights? Oh dear God.) I do not want to be mocked, and I also don't want my fear of mockery to catapult me into trying to be hardcore, which I am not and which always leads to a bad landing.

I really do want to try a yoga class, though. I've never done one with an instructor about and I'd really like to try. And a dance class. And I would love to be able to run inside again, and not on a treadmill, so I could get back in 5K shape (this time, with Hub!). And swimming! I could totally do something different for my cardio every week, or every day (of my cardio days) for the week! And my Hub would go with me! Okay, this might be really cool.

(Also. I know I love the recumbant bike, but I would love it more if it wasn't sitting in my damn living room taking up space all the time. I don't think we should go all crazy and SELL it, but maybe it could end up in the basement storage space. Maybe. With my writing workspace and the recumbant bike out of the living room, we might have a bit of space to breathe again.)

5) Still contemplating babies. Which is, really, related to my goals of the year: writing and muscle. I would like to have a respectable amount of muscle mass (and a respectably lower amount of fatty mass) by the time we start trying to have kids, because apparently that makes it easier to carry around that belly, aleviates some of the wacky physical issues, and (on a note of pure vanity) would make it a lot easier to drop the baby weight once the baby is born. And I want to get writing, and even if I can't get a book entirely written pre-baby, I want to have the ability to concentrate on writing firmed up so that I'm not so friggin' distractable, because having kids = MUCH MORE DISTRACTION THAN NOW.

6) My Hub is in desperate need of new pants. His are falling off, in spite of his having not only tightened his belt as far as it can go, but also having added a whole new notch in the belt. His pants have always been too big, in a way; since he carries most of his weight in his gut, he'd have to buckle his belt below the belly and he'd still end up with pants that flapped around like sails. Now he tries to buckle the belt in the right place, but it slides down because his middle is too small for these pants, and he is SWIMMING in the damn pants. His shirts are too big, too; he's gone from "hey, look, I can button the top button on these shirts!" to "okay, I can almost wrap the sides around to meet in the middle." Again, he always tended to buy a size up, due to the belly, so without the belly it's just... holy crow. Must buy the boy new clothes. MUST.

7) I'm so, so happy about making it through the whole Thanksgiving/Christmas season without candy or cookies or pie or cake or ice cream or whatever. Which is weird, because up until the past month or so I could have never imagined holidays without them. Or life without them, for that matter. I am now living sans coffee, and (except for the occasional cup of unsweetened chai) caffeine-free. Again: something I could never have told you was possible before. Those were two of my big limits, where if something threatened to take my coffee or my chocolate away, I would've wailed, gnashed my teeth, and maybe committed MURDER. And now... poof, nothing. Weird to realize how an addiction is really an ADDICTION, you know?

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Book Review: The Body-Sculpting Bible for Women

I'd like to give a hearty thumbs-up to The Body-Sculpting Bible for Women (Revised) by James Villepigue and Hugo Rivera. HEARTY thumbs-up.

First of all, full disclosure: I did not buy this book for myself. My Hub bought it for me for Christmas. I was intimidated, because, well, the idea of two guys writing a weight-lifting book for women just struck me as the kind of thing where I'd end up feeling inadequate, and I do not like being made to feel inadequate. I mean, I don't need a book with a pink cover and a lot of silliness about getting "toned" and the implication that lifting heavier weights than those wee pink Wal-Mart dumbells would make a girl bulky. On the other hand, though, I have a real fear of failure, and I'd been told that this was THE book recommended for gals by the fitness folks my Hub hangs out with online, and this seemed to imply that it would be more hard-core than I was ready for. And, frankly, no matter what weight I'm at, I still bristle when people who've never been fat decide they're going to give advice to those who are. Seriously, if they haven't been there, they don't know, and I'm always going to get a weird vibe from that.

Eventually, though, after eyeing the book across the room for a few days, I broke down and read it. I'm happy to report that my fears were unfounded. In spite of the fact that these are guys writing, they have a healthy respect for women and, even more importantly, they both really get the desperation of being fat and flailing around for something to fix it, because they've been there. One of them is a former bulimic, in fact, and when I read the part where he talks about how his sister was bulimic and he picked up on it from her, and her scary brush with death in their teen years... well, damn, I will listen to a guy who knows this stuff first-hand. He knows.

The first thing they do is break down why diets, as we know them, suck. They explain the whole downward cycle of restricted calories to muscle loss to plateau to further restriction of calories to further muscle loss to another plateau to frustration and quitting and even more fat piling on. I can't stress enough how awesome it is to see it all laid out like that in plain English, with explanations for everything, because during my time on Weight Watchers that cycle was very, very familiar, but there was never an explanation for it. It happened to me, it happened to everyone I knew through WW, and we all bitched about it and comforted each other about it and coached each other through it with the old saw of "more water, count EVERYTHING, really make sure you're not cheating when you weigh or measure your food, and exercise more." And we never knew why the hell it was happening, we just knew that it happened. Never, ever, EVER did anyone say "what you need to do is eat more, specifically more protein, build muscle, and flip off the scale." There was this weird built-in assumption that if you hit a plateau, you just needed to bear down and hang in there and keep doing what you were doing, only harder. So when this book just explained it, I just felt this supreme sense of relief.

As I said, there's a deep understanding of the fat world in this book, and that may be the part that I love the most about it. The best thing was reading what may be the greatest explanation for why the low-cal diet is unsatisfying, results-wise: the body shrinks, all right, but it doesn't look like what you think it will look like. It's sort of sloppy and bumpy and haphazard. (Example: Even when my collarbones were extremely visible, I had a curved belly and a saggy butt and chubby legs and goofy upper arms. Not exactly what I'd had in mind.) I'm not saying that THIS IS THE ONLY ANSWER, LIFTING WEIGHTS WILL CURE ALL, but I do believe that a body will look better in a weight-lifting, body-sculpting scenario than in a low-cal, only-cardio scenario.

There's also a lot of great stuff about food, and nutrition, and, surprisingly, a lot about dealing with food and exercise in special situations-- pregnancy, menopause, and just plain being sick. (Hang out around bodybuilders for a while and you will discover a general distain for using those machines in the gym. Thus it was to my great delight to find that since pregnant women have looser joints and want to take special care to not be in situations where they'll lose their balance, machines are ENCOURAGED for them. Awesome.) I love that they completely accept that when you're sick, you won't want to exercise, and they encourage you to go easy your first week or two after being sick while you get back into the groove.

There's a big emphasis on easing yourself in, both in the nutrition portions and the exercise portions of this book. You know how I like that sort of thing. THUMBS WAY UP.

The main stuff, of course, is the section of training programs. First of all, you get an explanation of how the programs work, and what goes into them, and how you should warm up first and drink water and stretch. Then you get a good explanation of each exercise, on the form and how you should do them, and what you're looking for. Then they give you the programs themselves.

They rotate you through on a two-week cycle, so that your body never gets completely used to what you're doing, and-- just as important-- your brain never gets to be so used to the whole thing that you go through the motions without thinking about it. You get a list of exercises for each day (days weight-training are interspersed with days of cardio + ab work), and in a stroke of genius they've kindly added, right next to each exercise in the list, the page number where you can find the in-depth exercise explanation and picture. They group 'em in twos, modified compound supersets, so you do a set of exercise A, then a set of exercise B, then A again, then B again, before moving on to C and D.

There is also a very nice glossary and several appendixes, and at the moment I have forgotten what's in them. Oops.

Thus far I have done four days of Week 1 of the Break-In workout cycle. Last night was apparently all about the legs, because oh my God do I hurt today. (Not as much as I might have, though; I made damn sure that I stretched after each set.) My legs were so wobbly on my last set of squats that I thought I was going to fall over. EXCELLENT. I'll let you know how things go from here; I'm furrently in that state of goofy optimism that is characteristic of Me On A New Plan, so keep that in mind. Still, this doesn't feel gimmicky, and it feels doable.

In summary: Excellent book. It came highly recommended, and as far as reading and a week's worth of workouts go, I also give it a very positive recommendation. It's not expensive-- $14 on Amazon-- it's chock-full of good information, everything is explained in plain English, it's very accessable to beginners (and to shaky begin-againers like me), and they GET IT. Big bonus points for GETTING IT; seriously, I might not have taken a lot of this in quite the same way if these guys had come off as some of those I've-never-been-fat-and-I-don't-understand-what's-wrong-with-you types. AND, as yet another big bonus, the workouts are centered around freeweights and body-weight-only exercises (push-ups, crunches, etc.), so this stuff is totally doable at home.

Check it out if you have the chance.

Edited to add: Hugo Rivera, one of the authors, has a website here. Also a good read, not to mention containing some cheesecake shots of the man himself. Hubba hubba.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

For those of you just starting out...

Indulge me for a moment here. I'm going to go all old-lady and ramble about the stuff I wish I'd known when I was just starting out on this crazy health-conscious thing. The new year is high tide for the diet biz, and even those of us who've been doing this for God only knows how long start to feel the lure of spending January berating ourselves for the sins of the prior year and swearing to stick to some fanatical routine. My Hub hangs out on a certain online forum, and it is suddenly sprouting newbies left and right, all of whom are plunging headlong into determined weight loss without quite knowing what they're doing. It makes me turn into my mother, hands flapping wildly as I try to figure out what I can do to help.

Take with a grain of salt, as ever.

First of all: read everything you can get your hands on. Don't believe that all you need to know about nutrition and exercise are in any one plan, because there is SO MUCH to know. You'll start to notice the similarities and patterns between all the warring information out there.

Second: the scale doesn't know as much as you think it does. The scale is a useful tool, but it's only one tool. Using the scale to guess how much fat you're losing is like using a pancake turner as a fork; it can be done, but it's clumsy and haphazard. The scale can't tell you if the two pounds you've lost or gained is water, or a meal that digested faster or slower than expected, or muscle mass, or fat. It's an excellent tool in its way-- definitely useful for keeping on track-- but don't mistake the day-to-day fluctuations as an indication of how you're doing. The scale is just not that smart.

Third: building muscle is the smartest thing you can do. Muscle burns calories. Muscle shapes the layers on top of it. Muscle is the absolute key to maintaining weight loss. And no, you won't get bulky and look like a 'roid monster, or a guy; women are not biologically designed to do that. Seriously, minute for minute, investing your exercise time in weight-lifting will give you the best long-term results.

A lot of weight-loss programs are practically designed to make you lose muscle tissue right along with the fat. Going under 1200 calories/day (aproximately 24 Points on WW) is one of the classic signs of a program that's endangering your muscle tissue. Losing muscle tissue means that you're burning fewer calories per day than you used to, which means that it's harder to lose weight, which means that you end up restricting your calories more, which means that you lose more muscle tissue and make it even harder to lose weight and hit a plateau and are hungry all the time and frustrated because you never get to eat the things you want and then, one night, you just give up and quit and decide that you're just meant to be fat, because clearly your metabolism is screwed up. And since your body has less muscle than when you started dieting, the fat comes back fast, and BOOM, you're bigger than before, and the next time you get fed up with your body and do the diet thing again, it's gonna be harder.

Trust me on this one. You need muscle. You need more than 1200 calories per day, and a good portion of it should be lean protein-- cottage cheese, fish, chicken breasts, eggs, etc.-- because that's what your body uses to make muscle. (Also, it's more filling and takes longer to digest.) Yeah, protein has calories in it, and there are things you'd rather be spending those calories on. I know. Better to eat more calories and get the protein and weight-lifting in, though, than to eat fewer calories and lose muscle.

Fourth: yes, it really is possible to be addicted to sugar. There are many people who can take it or leave it. I am one of the others, the ones who can spiral down to a place where the months of October through February are spent face-down in a candy bowl. And, yes, I have at times declared that a life without chocolate was not a life worth living; strangely, the past two months (in which I haven't had any chocolate, or any other kind of sugary sweet) have not been those times. And-- knock on wood-- my binge eating has disappeared. It's weird.

Fifth: pedometers are the best thing ever. If you're anything like me, it's easy to get obsessive about numbers. Pedometers give you numbers to obsess over in a good way, a good reason to take the scenic route, a good reason to take the long way back from the office bathroom, a good reason to walk to the store instead of driving, a good reason to take the stairs instead of the elevator. LOVE.

Sixth: engineered diet foods are the devil. Okay, maybe not the DEVIL, but still. There's no nutrition there. There's nothing that will satisfy you. A low-fat version will generally have more sugar than the normal version, a sugar-free version will generally have more fat than the normal version, and all of 'em have chemicals. Also, they're freakishly expensive. Do yourself a favor and start shifting over to real foods as soon as you can. You'll save money and your body will run better.

Seventh: learn your healthy flavor additives. The sad fact of modern life is that we've got our tastebuds trained by the fast-food and junk-food industries, both of whom use all the tricks in the book to make stuff taste BIGGER and MORE FLAVORFUL and BETTER and all that. They use the traditional additives for this-- sugar (more often, the insane mutant sugar that is high-fructose corn syrup), salt, and fat (much of which, to keep things shelf-stable, is of the really scary kinds of fat), as well as the brave new world's favorite additive, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORINGS. Seriously, if you think about it, it's like you're spending your whole life living in a neon-colored environment and going on a diet is like trying to live in pastels; it's going to take some getting used to, and in the meantime you just can't recognize the toned-down "normal" flavors as anything flavorful at all.

So bring out the big guns of the healthy flavorings. Citrus juices. Citrus zest. Balsamic vinegar. Brown mustard. Frank's Red Hot. Fresh garlic. Fresh ginger. Fresh-ground spices. Fresh herbs. Pungent cheeses in small amounts (goat cheese, blue cheese, etc.). Olives. Soy sauce. You get the idea.

Eighth: if you don't like it cooked one way, try another way. I hated green beans until I tried the french-cut ones in balsamic vinegar that my Hub makes. I hated beets until I tried them in a slaw. I hated olives until I tried the ones that are stuffed with garlic. I hated sweet potatoes until I tried them roasted. If one cooking method makes you go "ew, gross!" then try another one.

Ninth: SLEEP, FOR GOD'S SAKE. This is still, by far, my biggest challenge. It's hard! There's stuff I want to do! If I had just five more minutes... except that way leads onto way, and I end up spending an extra hour awake. When I don't get enough sleep, it's harder to exercise, it's harder to concentrate, and my body craves calorie-dense foods because it needs more fuel. Bah. Also, there are a lot of studies showing what a good thing adequate sleep is for people in general and people who want to lose weight in particular; it makes it easier to learn things, it increases your ability to concentrate, it lowers your blood pressure, it helps regulate your appetite. Sleep is good. If anyone ever says anything negative about you getting enough sleep-- that somehow it makes you lazy-- then punch that fucker in the head.

Tenth: your self-esteem may well need as much exercise as your muscles. I've said it before and I'll say it again: talk to yourself as you would to a small child, encouraging, congratulating, praising, cajoling, and generally all done with a smile. This takes work, though, particularly if you're used to kicking yourself; you have to re-learn how to be kind to yourself. Stop thinking that you're thinking what other people would think about you, or saying awful things about yourself just because it feels like you're beating them to the punch. Practice. Exercise that self-esteem.

Above all, remember this: slow is better. It doesn't feel better, I know, but that's just the MUST HAVE INSTANT RESULTS NOW portion of your brain talking; there are other parts of you that find the slow pace a great deal more comfortable. It makes things easier on your body, but-- even more important, in a way-- it also makes things a lot easier on your mind. Do things that you'll be able to do always. I can't deal with the idea of tracking my food every day for the rest of my life, so I don't do it. I can't deal with the idea of exercising twice a day for the rest of my life, so I just go for once a day, preferably in the morning before all my excuses are in place.

Go slow. Fall down and get back up. Be kind to yourself. You can do this; you don't have to do everything at once. Go slow. Ease in. You can do this, you absolutely can.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

It's the most ass-kicking time of the year, as long as the ass being kicked is one's own. People, be kind to yourselves. Do as my therapist once said: let your inner monologue be the kind of encouragement you'd give a beloved child, not the kind of beratement you'd give your worst enemy.

Okay? Okay.

So, Christmas was good. Weird beyond the telling of it, but good. Like at Thanksgiving, we ate what was there, leaning toward whatever had some smidgen of nutrition. I ducked the whole "here, have one of my delicious homemade cookies" issue, just barely. Mostly I was sick, laid up with a sinus infection, and that's the weird part: usually when I'm sick, I'm MORE prone to eating whatever the hell I want to, since I feel lousy and feel that the world owes me my treats. This time through, I had no appetite. I seriously didn't feel like eating anything, ever. It was really, really weird.

We had the week between Christmas and New Year's off, due to some skillful finageling of our remaining vacation days, and most of that was spent being sick. Both me and my Hub. Happy Holidays, yo. This unfortunately led to the dreaded both-sick-at-once issue of neither one of us having the oomph to cook, so there were a lot of sandwiches consumed in our household. And, I think it goes without saying, no exercise got accomplished.

New year, though: clean slate. Clean the house, clean the fridge, and right back we go to clean living.

My Hub is on a quest. He wants a gym membership. I'll give him this: he's an insanely diligent guy when he gets something in his head, and he tracked down several affordable gym options-- complete with pool, climbing wall, and yoga classes (all of which interest me)-- that I had never found back when I was checking stuff out. We're going to go visit some of the top contenders this weekend, I think.

Here's the difference between getting in shape all by myself and getting in shape with my Hub: with my Hub, things are skewing toward muscle-building. He got me a copy of The Body Sculpting Bible for Women for Christmas, and I gotta admit, it's good stuff. And, well, I do need more muscle. I know pretty well how things work when I lose weight without gaining muscle; besides the other physical side effects, the one that still annoys me is that at my lowest weight since early high school, I still didn't look too great in a bathing suit. Bah.

I concluded that if I'm ever going to do this, this is the year. Get the muscle mass on before getting pregnant, so I'll have things tilted in my favor for losing that pregnancy weight. Also, what the hell, it's another thing that I'll have to discuss with my Hub. It's good to share when it comes to types of exercise.

Incidentally, the Low-Key Healthy Eating And Exercise approach has officially made me drop 12 pounds since mid-September, most of which has been since going off sugar at the beginning of October. Averaging less than one pound per week, which is scary in the "oh my God how am I supposed to convince myself to stop screwing up if I don't see immediate bad results on the scale?" way, but which is very good in terms of being able to keep my sanity.

And now, I have to go to bed, because I can't keep my eyes open. Stupid sinus infection.

Cut for length-- click to read more.