Monthly Archives: June 2012

Spark People App Review

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The other day, I downloaded this app as a means of tracking my food. Since getting my iPhone 4 last year, I had been using the Weight Watchers app, and quite liked it. However, you can only use the WW app if you’re paying a monthly membership, which I’m no longer doing. I wanted to find something easy and convenient to help me keep track of what I’ve eaten and how much I’ve exercised, and this one was free. Plus, I’d used the SparkPeople website before, so I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with it.

It took me a bit of time to get used to it. I really liked the WW app, and had become quite familiar with it. What is it with us humans and change? Oh well. I quickly got the hang of this new app. I like that it was a lot of different foods in its database, including restaurant food. I did notice that most of the commercially prepared food (including restaurants) was American brands we can’t get here in Canada. The format for adding foods is very similar to the WW app, and it allows you to add your own foods if you cannot find them in the database. You can also save foods to your favourites list.

One thing that I really like with the SparkPeople app are the graphs. I’m a visual learner, and seeing things represented pictorially really helps. The home screen looks like this:

I love the bar graph! It’s a great way to see how you’re doing and keep you on track. I found it very helpful today. I also could see that I hadn’t burned enough calories. The amount of calories you are “allowed” to consume and the calories you’re “supposed” to burn can be set up in the settings. You can input how much weight you’d like to lose, and how soon you’d like to lose it (at a healthy pace), and the app calculates your calorie intake and output.

There is also a calorie differential graph which shows how much you’ve eaten and how much you’ve burned including your Base Metabolic Rate. Other graphs include a breakdown of all the calories you’ve eaten for the day, and a monthly chart of calories burned. You can also track how much water you’ve consumed.

I guess the only thing about the WW app I prefer over this one is the way fruits and vegetables are zero points. I’m not sure which I prefer: counting calories or WW points. I’m leaning towards the WW points, because not all calories are created equal.

But, the price of the SparkPeople app is right: it’s free, and I can afford that.

As I reflect on my journey to be Fit by Forty, I realize that I’m trying to do it as inexpensively as possible. A few weeks back, I posted about all of the diet companies plying on our desire to lose weight quickly, and making big money off of our desperation. I am thinking about adding a new goal to my journey: trying to lose weight as cheaply as possible!

So far, all I’ve bought in the name of weight loss, since starting this blog, are some multivitamins. In recent months, I invested in a fitness game for the Wii, some yoga DVDs and a really good pair of running shoes. I think, in total, I’ve spent less than $200 in the last three months on weight loss paraphernalia. And, most of the money I’ve spent has been on reusable, non-consumable things.

I truly believe that you can lose weight for next-to-nothing. You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to be healthy. And dang it, I’m gonna prove it!

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Today’s Grade: B+

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Ok. Here I am. Being accountable. Yesterday, if you recall, I wrote down 5 “smart” goals, number 5 being to “check in every night here on my blog to record how my goals for the day went.” So here it goes.

1. Tracking my food: I did fairly well on this. I tracked almost everything I ate, and was very conscious about my calorie intake. However, I did not write down the grande skinny hazelnut latte I had mid-morning,  nor did I track my dinner. For the record, I had leftovers – left over tortellini and left over potatoes. I know, not every healthy, but hey, I’m admitting it! The rest of the day was fairly healthy, consisting of lots of fruits, veggies and unprocessed food.

2. Exercise: Yup. Up at 5 (ish) and did the first workout of the 30 day challenge. I’m starting out at the easy level. I could probably handle the moderate level, but I want to be successful.

3. Water: I had no idea that cut up strawberries and lemons in a bottle of water could be so refreshingly yummy! I drank two of my big bottles full of strawberry/lemon water today, and it was much, much, MUCH tastier than any powered low-cal diet crap. Plus, it’s chock full of vitamin C, and B-complex vitamins (apparently lemons are a good source for this! I did not know this.)

4. Vitamins: oops! Forgot about that one. Will try better tomorrow.

5. Being accountable on my blog. Yup!

 

Overall, it was a pretty decent day. I didn’t get as much stuff done as I had wanted, which I attribute to being tired. I got to bed late last night, and didn’t sleep well. Tonight I need to get to bed much earlier: tomorrow’s going to be a long day… hopefully going downtown to catch the Wayne Shorter concert 🙂

 

 

Not all that smart.

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Ok, so today I’m kinda pissed off. A friend told me I’d have more “social capital” if I was thin. This was in reference to my frustration at blind dates who seemed nice, only to hear that “the chemistry just isn’t there.” Argh. Are all men so shallow as to not see beyond a person’s physical appearance? Hell, I’m a lot better looking than some of the skinny bitches out there. I once had a man tell me, on a first date, that he really liked me, but didn’t want to date me if I was planning on staying fat. He had recently lost a significant amount of weight, and wanted to be with someone who was like-minded. Funny thing? I lost weight while we were together, and he gained it.  My ex-husband used to say, “I’d love you more if you were thin.” Ironically, he was 6’6″ and 330 lbs.

Once I was supposed to meet a man at Starbucks for coffee. We had connected on an online dating site. I had seen his photo. When I walked up to him at the coffee shop, he utterly ignored me – completely pretended he didn’t hear me say his name. I guess he didn’t like what he saw.  Jerk.

Yes. I do realize that I’m being rather ugly right now. I’m also pissed off because my friend was right: it would be easier to get a man if I was thin. At least here in Vancouver, as it seems men in this part of the world are incredibly vain. I’m pissed off at myself for not trying harder to be fit. I’m just in an all around crabby mood. If it weren’t for the free tickets I won to the Jazz Festival (a week-long Hopper Pass!!), I’d be downright bitchy.

Then there’s my friend Jodi. Jodi rocks. She is a kindergarten teacher… but not your typical warm fuzzy, sticky-sweet, appliqué-sweater-wearing soft-spoken granny. Nope. She rocks. She has become a great friend this year at work. It’s always nice to make friends at a new job, even nicer when they’re really cool.

Jodi is super athletic. She’s a power house! She sets goals and works her ass off to achieve them. I wish I had half the energy and motivation she has. Today, she posted in her blog about not being able to meet a physical goal of hers because of illness. But she’s not letting it get her down. Sure, she didn’t reach her goal by her intended date, but she’s persevering nonetheless. This woman lets nothing get in her way. She is, in a word, amazing. Her blog really inspired me today to not be bummed out by set backs.

I title my post tonight “Not all that smart” because I realized, on my ride home from an amazing jazz concert, that I haven’t set any real “SMART” goals. You know, Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  This is exactly why I’m not moving towards my goal of being Fit by 40. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the philosophy of it all, trying to wrap my head around it, working on emotional eating, but I haven’t set any real goals.

Time for that to change.

A while back, I bought a game for the Wii. EA Sports Active or something like that. It has this 30 day challenge, created by Bob Greene – that guy who trains Oprah Winfrey. I’ve started it a few times but never gotten past the 4th or 5th workout. So, I’m thinking that I’m going to replace my morning yoga with this 30 day challenge program. I’m already getting up at 5am to work out, and this workout isn’t much longer than my yoga DVD.

I’ve also downloaded the SparkPeople app for tracking my food and exercise. I know one thing for certain: the only time I’ve ever been successful in losing weight is when I did two things:

  1. Tracked my food/kept a food diary.
  2. Exercised regularly with a mixture of cardio and resistance training.

I’ve been mulling this over for a week now.  I know exactly what I need to do. It isn’t rocket science. I don’t know why tracking my food is so darn difficult. Why do I resist it so? Hmm… must psychoanalyse that a bit more.

Ok, so here are my smart goals for the week:

  1. Track my food for the next week. I’m not even going to worry if I eat crap. I’m just going to write it all down, even the not-so-healthy choices. Perhaps if the food choice is fuelled by emotions, I could make a note of that somewhere. I have a small notebook that I bought for this purpose. It’s in my car glove box. I will keep a food diary for the next week, aiming to do it for every meal, every day, but forgiving myself if I miss a meal or two. And, forgiving myself for not eating healthily.
  2. Wake up at 5am to exercise, this time using the 30 day challenge. My goal is to complete this challenge in the allotted 30 days. I am already in the habit of waking up to exercise, just not on the weekends. This week, I will make sure that I have my exercise clothes ready the night before, and make sure I’ve got all of the various Wii paraphernalia ready to go in the morning. I picked up a pack of batteries this morning, so I can’t use “the batteries are dead”  excuse.
  3. I will continue to drink at least one of my big water bottles per day. I’ve been adding lemons to the water, and this week I think I’ll try adding different fruit. Yum! Better than CrystalLite and tastier, too. I will drink one to two big bottles of water every day.
  4. I will remember to take my multivitamin with green tea extract every day at lunch time. I will keep track of this by writing it in my food diary.
  5. I will check in every night here on my blog to record how my goals for the day went.

 

So that’s it: Track my food, work on the 30 day challenge, drink water, take a vitamin, and check in every day with a short post recording how well I did keeping those goals. I am only going to focus on this week. Who cares about next week or next month. Hell, let’s just get through the next day.

Little things add up

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I’m slowly becoming more mindful of my eating habits. Today, I noticed that I was really savouring the flavour of the avocado in my salad. I have also been trying to pay attention to my body’s hunger signals and only eat when I’m truly hungry. It doesn’t always work, but there have been a few days where I haven’t been able to finish my lunch, and today I noticed that the salad I made was smaller than the ones I was making last week.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve been exercising more will power. I had to pop into Shopper’s Drug Mart this morning before work to pick up one of those nifty stain-removing pens (why I buy white blouses is beyond me – I always spill something on them!) While I was there, I had to walk right past the chocolate aisle. Delectable dark chocolate bars, all in a row, quietly calling my name. I walked over and stared, tantalized by the promise of chocolate-induced endorphins temporarily making me feel divine. And I looked longingly at the display. I started to reach out to one, but then I stopped. I left that aisle and went and paid for my purchase, sans chocolate.

On the way home, it was really muggy outside, and I was hot and tired. A frappuccino would have totally hit the spot. So would have a white chocolate macadamia cookie. But nope. Didn’t do it. Drove right home and ate the fruit I had packed in my lunch for the car ride home.

I know these don’t seem like big things, but to me they signal that I am regaining control of my eating habits. It feels really good.

Instant Gratification

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Now. Now. NOW! I want it NOW!

We live in a world of instant gratification. It wasn’t that long ago that google would tell you that it completed your search in 1.7 seconds. Today, I googled “instant gratification” and had results before I had even finished typing! If our facebook page doesn’t load within 5 seconds, we get impatient. And it’s affecting our health.

According to recent article in Time Magazine from May 7, 2012,

“… most obesity isn’t caused by a lack of access to affordable produce or time to cook. It’s the result of short-term over long-term thinking. Cooking sucks. Eating a salad takes forever. Fast food is delicious, easy, fun, cheap, reliable and can be scarfed down so quickly there isn’t time to fight with your family. One Thanksgiving meal does more emotional damage than a lifetime of Wendy’s.”*

We are so used to instant gratification that I can’t help but wonder if we’ve forgotten what achieving long-term goals feels like. Because we don’t have long-term achievements in mind, it is so easy to succumb to the here and now, the drive-through burger and fries. It is so easy to fill our bellies right now – if I’m in a rush, I can easily grab take-out and eat it in the car. I bet everyone reading this has at least one fast food french fry on the floor of their car that’s been there for months!

It isn’t just this instant need for food, and our impatience to prepare it, it’s more than that. I’ll admit: I’m guilty of fast food. There are often times when I get home from work, tired and rushing to get some kid out the door to some activity and the easiest option for dinner is take-out. Or, not even in a rush – I’ve done that when I’m just too drained to think about cooking. And I know I’m not alone: the line-ups at the drive-through at 6pm prove it.

No, it’s more than that need for speedy meals. We also use food to instantly calm our fears, anxiety, worries, sadness, loneliness…. the list goes on. I did it myself, just tonight. I was having a bit of an anxiety attack about something over which I have absolutely no control. So, what did I do? I grabbed a bowl of ice cream. And, for the few minutes that the creamy goodness melted in my mouth, I was able to forget (or at least, quiet) my anxiety. But it didn’t last. The anxiety is still there. And now the calories are, too. I know what I should’ve done: I should have called a friend; played piano; gone for a walk; meditated; done some yoga; had a cup of tea… but, the ice cream was quicker. I was afraid of my anxiety and, rather than face it, I tried to get instant gratification through ice cream. And it wasn’t even good ice cream. It was the cheap stuff in the huge container from the grocery store. blech.

In today’s fast-paced society, we have practically instant access to food. And, as we look  at the obesity epidemic around us, I’m pretty certain that this instant access is part of the problem. I bet if all of us chubby folks had to go out into the field and grow our own food we wouldn’t be so fat!

The sad thing is that our culture panders to our need for instant gratification, especially the weight loss industry. We want to lose weight, and we want to lose it now. At the grocery store check-out magazines with bikini-clad models scream out headlines like “Lose 15 pounds by next week! New Miracle Diet: Eat Oreos and Lose 20 lbs!” It’s not just magazines, either. One weight loss program promises that you’ll lose up to 20 lbs/month by injecting yourself full of vitamins. Another one pumps you up with expensive supplements “especially designed for your body type.” Hell, even the name Slim Fast  implies instant gratification! All of these weight loss programs use “before and after” pictures to market their snake oil. “Wow!” we think “Look at her! She looks so good” as we stare at two pictures, instantly side by side. We are conditioned to want results immediately, and the weight loss industry is making big money off of it. If all of these fad diets and expensive weight loss centres really worked, the medical community would be on board, and (at least here in Canada), all fat people would get such programs covered by their provincial medical plans.

How many of us have started a “diet” only to give up after a few weeks because we’re not seeing the results we wanted to see? It’s a month into your new diet, you’ve only lost 5 lbs. You were hoping to have lost at least 20 by now, so you quit.

With the rare exception, most of us were not born overweight. We’re overweight because of our habits. Habits – good and bad – don’t happen overnight, they take years to develop. Why do we expect to have instant success in weight loss when the weight didn’t instantly appear?

I stepped on the scale this morning. I was happy to see that the numbers have edge down ever so slightly. That scale is so instant. I step on it, it tells me a number.

A number. Just a number. Not how successful I’ve been this week.

I love this photo. I would add one more thing:

* The numbers on this scale will not tell you how successful you’ve been at changing your old, unhealthy habits to new, healthier ones.

I’ll admit: my mood can be affected by the numbers I see on the scale. I judge my success by those numbers and if it’s not instantly what I want to see, I feel like a failure.

I can’t help but wonder if I’ve got it all wrong. Of course, I want the numbers on the scale to go down. But I’m in this for the long haul.  If I want long-lasting success, I need to change my habits and, more importantly, my lifestyle. That doesn’t happen over night. This isn’t a quick-fix thing. This is a major change in my life. It requires perseverance, diligence, patience, and, most importantly, kindness. Change is not easy. It takes time and commitment. Yes, I will experience setbacks as my body and psyche struggle to stay within the confines of the comfortable known.

But the rewards will be worth it. Being healthy, fit, active. Feeling alive and empowered. That amazing feeling of success. I can do this. I will do this. I am doing this!

* For the record: I love family dinners! I only have happy memories of Thanksgiving meals. The best one was when my Granny looked at my (now ex-)husband’s new grown goatee, and, rather randomly said, “Your face looks like an anus.” Oh Granny, if you’re looking down from heaven, thank you! That still makes me giggle 🙂 (And it was so true! lol)

Trying something new

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I am not a morning person. Yes, even though I get up every morning at 5am to do yoga, I am truly not a morning person.  It takes me forever to get moving and out the door for work. When I worked from home, my mornings were leisurely, slow and gradual. I’d sit around drinking a cup of coffee, reading the paper and eating a nice breakfast. Now, with a 45 minute commute, breakfast is often consumed in the car.

For a while now, I’d been eating frozen, microwaved breakfast sandwiches. In my defence, they were Weight Watchers ones, but they were still pre-cooked, frozen and reheated eggs. About two months ago, I gave up the breakfast sandwiches for smoothies. I bought a couple of cans of Slim Fast, some frozen fruit, and I was good to go.

Yesterday, when I was getting my hair cut, my incredibly fit and slim, body-building-competitor-hairdresser kept mentioning flax seeds and flax oil. This isn’t the first time as of late that flax seed has popped into my consciousness. When that happens, I typically see it as more than a coincidence! When, later that night, I was at the market and saw milled flax seed with blueberries, I decided to pick up a bag and try it.

This morning, I added it to my smoothie. Here’s the recipe I used:

1 c. skim milk

1/2 c. plain fat-free yogurt

1 c. frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, pineapple and mango)

2 tbsp milled flax seed

1 package of Splenda

And that was it. Throw it all in the blender and ta-da! 5 ingredients. I just took a look at a Slim Fast can: over 30 ingredients, some of which I can’t pronounce. To tell you the truth, at first taste, I didn’t really like it this new recipe. It wasn’t nearly as sweet as my chocolately-chemical-ladden “diet” shake. But, as I drank it, I got used to it. It had a slightly nutty flavour that wasn’t all together unpleasant.

But what struck me was how full I felt all morning! Usually, I hop in the car and have the shake finished long before I reach the end of the main drag in my small town. Today, I was almost at the highway before I finished the shake. I usually have a banana following the shake, but this morning, I was just too full. Mid-morning, I eat some yogurt, berries and all-bran. Couldn’t finish it all until after lunch.

I am going to try it again tomorrow, but I need to find a way to make it a bit sweeter. I’m not really keen on the whole Splenda thing. I’m using 3-5 packets of that per day, and I’m pretty certain it isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice. However, I hesitate to use honey or some other sweetener for the calories.

I think tomorrow I’ll try peanut butter, banana and flax seed, milk and yogurt. Maybe a splash of vanilla.

If you have a good smoothie recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below 🙂

Failing to plan….

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… is planning to fail.

Just had a brilliant idea!! Every Sunday night, I’m going to post my plans for the week ahead. I am going to write down a few things that I’m going to do in the coming 7 days to help me reach my goals.

This week:

1. I am going to stay hydrated. Got a nifty new water bottle and a big bag of lemons!

2. I will rise every morning at 5 and exercise before work. This week, I am going to try something new. Instead of doing yoga every morning, I will do cardio on M/W/F and yoga the other days. I have a slightly brokenish foot right now, so I’ll see how much I can handle.

3. I will meditate or do something to relax when I get home from work. Maybe a cup of mulberry tea to help calm me down.

4. I will ask myself “Are you hungry? Do you need to eat this? Why do you want this?” when tempted to eat outside of meal times.

5. I will plan an absolutely scrumptious “cheat meal” for myself, and spoil myself silly with food. I will do this at the end of the week. Hmm…. Maybe I could find someone to share the meal with me!

6. I will be mindful while I am eating meals, savoring each bite and listening to my body’s cues.

7. I will continue with my daily affirmations, reminding myself to love and care for my body unconditionally as it loves and cares for me.

8. I will be kind to myself when I am less than perfect. I will accept my set backs with grace and love. (This one is going to be tough!)

9. I will prepare healthy delicious meals, making my lunches the night before so that I’m not rushed.

10. I will remember to breathe and slow down!