Starting again. Again.

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Published on: October 31, 2012

Seems like this is where I always up:  apologizing for not keeping up with this blog.  Acknowledging that I fell off the writing wagon.  Yea, well… this probably won’t be the last time, I s’pose, but I’m going to give it another go.  Maybe it’ll “stick” this time.

So – I finished my marathon last year (just in case any of you were hanging on the edge of your seats waiting for my victory post) — and it was as good a marathon experience as I could have hoped to have.  I was trained, I dealt with race day variables (another warm marathon day), and can honestly say that while I didn’t hit my sub-4 hour goal, that I pushed as hard as I could, every step of the way.

I’m proud of my 4:09 finish and happy to finally say that I did a marathon the right way, to the best of my ability, and I feel absolutely no need to have another go ’round with it to prove anything to myself.

(don’t quote that back to me when I sign up again…)

Now, a year later, I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck I’ve been up to.  Right?

Well, this year has been tough in terms of training — some personal stuff that I’m just now taking care of has kept me off the roads.  Things are starting to turn around, though; I’ve signed up for a fun little 10-mile race that’s coming up in a couple of weeks… and I’ve even gone through some training spurts to get ready for it (it’s still gonna be ugly, though).

This year has also provided me with a new way to get rid of my money:  I’ve fallen in love with mountain biking.  On a whim, I went down to Brown County to partake in a women’s only mountain biking camp (they gave me a bike to use, how could I refuse?), and after just a day, I left there determined to buy a mountain bike sometime before the very next weekend so I could start hitting the trails.  I’ve never denied being an impulse shopper!

It’s a great sport — I usually don’t know what I’m doing, but I haven’t broken any bones (yet) and I’m having a blast with it.  The best way to describe it is that it’s like being a kid again:  all adrenalin and speed and dirt and fun.

On the nutrition front, I’ve had a similar arc to things:  started out great, took a dive bomb around March, and since then I’ve been battling my way back from my highest weight in years.  I’m about 6 weeks into eating whole, healthy foods, and am about 10 pounds away from my goal weight for the year (which is 7 pounds lighter than what I weighed on January 1st).  I’ve been logging over at MyFitnessPal.com and that’s been a great site for me — the community is really keeping me accountable for maintaining good eats (meaning: they yell at me when I get too far off plan…heh…).

Now that I’ve caught everyone up, I promise I’ll start putting together posts that are, you know, interesting and funny and all that other stuff. I’ve been saving it up for a year now, right?

January 1st, take 2

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Published on: January 23, 2011

I’m big on New Year’s resolutions.  For years now, I’ve taken time as the year changes from old to new, and assess how the previous year went and figure out what I want to do for the next 365 days.  I like having a plan and all that.

Sometimes it feels a bit cliche, but I don’t know – there’s just something about a new year that seems like it’s a good time for a fresh start.  It’s all holiday good cheer and twinkling lights and optimism for the year ahead and it seems like there’s no way the pie-in-the-sky plans will fail.

And then, all of a sudden, it’s mid-January.  Dark.  Cold.  A little depressing, to be perfectly honest.  Not exactly the kind of month that inspires you to be a better person, is it?

I laid out 10 resolutions for myself this year.  Some personal, some race-related, some that address my overall well-being.  And while I’ve got an appointment with myself at the end of every month to review the resolutions and see if I’m heading in the right direction, I thought it might do me some give myself a good mid-month ass-kicking… because, as I said in a previous post, the ice cream is winning.

It seems like every year features some sort of resolve to eat better, lose weight, be more healthy… however it is that I decide to word it for that particular year.  And that hasn’t changed for this year — I’m determined to focus on eating healthy, cutting out processed food and drop some weight by sticking to that. So far this January, I haven’t been doing anything to help myself out here.  Toss in a lot of stress (the whole buying/selling a house thing) and swirl it up with not getting nearly enough sleep (and remember – sleep is The Secret to me being happy) and I can’t seem to stay away from the crap food.  So far it hasn’t really hurt me too much — my weight just seems to bounce around in the same 3-pound range — but this needs to change.  Just think how far along I could be if I had been doing things right?

The other main set of resolutions involve getting faster.  Shaving a few minutes off my half marathon PR.  Finally kicking the marathon curse off my shoulders and going sub-4.  You want to know what helps with all this?  Actual training.  Huh.  Whodda thunk it?  Up until this past week, life has been a big ball of chaos, and time when I wasn’t getting my house ready for market was a rare commodity.  Ironically, running is the one thing that HELPS me deal with stress… and it was (is?) the one thing I wasn’t doing.  And, you know – I love running, but does that stop me from getting into a bad cycle where I don’t run because I’m stressed even though that’s the one thing that would relieve the stress?  Nope – I’m completely capable of being a dumbass, it seems.

So, starting tomorrow (since I’m currently snarfing down a Calzone for dinner), I’m back on the wagon.  I ran this weekend… and even further than a few miles.  I’ll continue this week:  good training sessions, at least 5-6 runs, food decisions geared towards making me feel better.

Because that’s what it’s all about:  it’s not really the losing weight, or the specific race times… it’s about making me feel good about myself and what I’m able to accomplish.  I think I sometimes forget how when you start making decisions that are good for you, that this can steamroll just as easily as the bad stuff can.  And once you get yourself going back in the right direction, that good feeling becomes it’s own self-propelling cycle.

So – hold me to the fire here:  keep me honest, keep me accountable.  I know exactly what I want and what I need to do to get there, I’ve just got to get this butt back in gear.

Right after I finish this calzone.

The ice cream is winning

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Published on: January 11, 2011

You know, the holidays are always tough:  tons of food around and everyone seems to encourage the idea that any sweet imbued with the warm fuzziness of Christmas is calorie-free.  Let me be the first to tell you:  this is not the truth.

Still – I managed to maintain my weight, despite indulging in my fair share of the holiday treats.  I mean, heck – it’s easier to skip dinner than it is to skip the Christmas cookies, right?  Seemed like a fair trade to me, and while not the smartest way to go about things, it worked.

But now that the holidays are over and all sorts of good, healthy resolutions have been made, I thought it would be easy.  At this point last year, I had completely committed to a nutritious lifestyle and was on my way to dropping 10 pounds, just in the month of January.

This year?  Yea, not so much.  Part of the problem is a lack of focus:  I’m in the midst of packing up my house to move to a new place, and I’m overwhelmed and stressed by the whole process.  Now, I’m pretty good at moving stuff — I change houses about every 5 years — but this time seems different.  Between the market being so bad that my house will have to look PERFECT and the fact that I’m drastically downsizing and have to get rid of a ton of stuff, I’m finding myself wandering from room to room, eyes glazed over, too paralyzed with stress to actually be productive and get things done.

Of course, the end result is that I’m not making time to train. I’ve got a very specific deadline for getting the house in order – there isn’t much that gets more priority than this.  And because I’m over-the-top stressed?  Yea, I’m stress eating.  And I made a major mistake:  I brought ice cream into the house (it was a BOGO offer! couldn’t pass it up!) and now I’m consumed with the idea of, well, consuming it.

So, I’m headed in the wrong direction.  I closed out 2010 headed in the right direction but this month has seen the skid marks resulting from the massive braking and reversal of direction I’m doing on all the good stuff.

My goal right now is to try and hold steady for this month.  Just get through this.  Once I actually move (which should be mid-February), I’ll have no excuses.  I’ll be closer to work (saving a LOT of commute time), getting more sleep and no longer stressing about making my house all beautiful and such for the market.  Sounds like perfection, right?

Life will be all butterflies and rainbows (and sidewalks that don’t need to be shoveled by me!) and I can’t wait to be in at a point where everything has no choice but to come together.

And until then?  I can see the light (bright sunlight?) at the end of the tunnel, and I’m just holdin’ on ….

Drumroll, please…

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Published on: January 7, 2011

I know everyone has been anxiously awaiting hearing about the results of my body fat test (don’t deny it – you’ve been doing nothing but watching your RSS Feeds and Facebook for evidence of a new post about this).  It’s long overdue and I know I’ve owed putting it out here, but….

I have to admit – I’ve been less than ready to publicize those results all over The Interwebz.

First, let me remind you of what my baseline is:  according to my hydrostatic weighing a mere 16 months ago, I was at 21.1% body fat.  Going into this bod pod session, I really wasn’t sure what to expect — hoping for lower (duh), but wouldn’t have been surprised with something either in the same range or a touch higher, even.

So, when the results came back, I was flabbergasted (note: I love that word).  After picking my jaw up from the floor, I immediately started arguing with the technician that this could not possibly be correct.

Any guesses?  No?  Okay – I’ll tell you:  27.7%.

I’m not kidding when I say that I raised a little hell after getting the results — I was seriously confused as to how that could even be in the realm of possibility.  And yes – I understand that the actual number is just an estimation (no matter how you come by it – the only sure-fire accurate method of finding out your body fat percentage is during autopsy.  Which hasn’t yet made it to my option list yet.).  But still.  Right?

Regardless, I put up enough of a stink that I had two athletic trainers in there talking me down.  Even though I didn’t specifically pay for any kind of analysis (psychological, bod pod or otherwise), they were patient and spent a lot of time talking it out with me.  And what conclusion did we come to?

Well, I told them I had been trying to drop weight.  And after months of basically staying at the same place, I decided to drastically cut calories.  See – being a runner, every pound means something.  Actually, it’s been theorized that this “something” actually equates to about 2 seconds a mile.  So – weighing less?  As a runner?  Good thing.

Of course, having a huge calorie deficit everyday (I had been essentially not eating dinner and not even refueling after afternoon workouts) will have some impact:  yes, you will lose weight.  But – the weight you lose?  Probably muscle, not fat.  As the very nice, patient trainers told me, it’s easy to lose weight but hard to lose body fat.

So, what I had been accomplishing with the weeks of only dreaming about pot roast and ice cream for dessert was that my body was using muscle to fuel my body rather than fat stores or food that I was taking in. Which, as it turns out?  Is a bad thing.  The scale might have had kind things to say to me over those weeks, but in fact, I was doing myself more harm than good.  All my training was being undermined by a lack of fuel to rebuild and grow stronger.

And – I know, I know.  How many times have I told someone, “You’re not eating enough!”  I should know better.  Ironically, I wanted a quick fix for losing weight and ultimately it ended up being a way to lose muscle instead (and that was muscle I was working hard to gain!).

Because the nice bod pod people (that has a very alien ring to it, doesn’t it?) were so impressed with my concern about my health (or just were doing anything they could to get me out the door…), they told me that they would go over my test results, plug some numbers into some spreadsheets they had created, and send me a report that would tell me how many calories per day I should be eating and the macro breakdown of those calories.

When I got this piece of information, it was eye-opening:  I was supposed to be eating AT LEAST 1800 calories a day as a baseline, meaning that was my resting metabolic rate (calories I would burn a day doing no training).  And on days when I trained particularly hard, I should compensate with more calories.  During my little adventure to try and lose weight?  I was probably only eating 1000-1200 calories a day.  Tops.  Which also means that on days I trained, I was netting somewhere around 800 calories a day.  SO not healthy. I approached the 1800 kcal mandate with some skepticism, but decided that it couldn’t hurt to try it.

I’ve been following their dietary suggestions now for a two months.  And? Amazingly?  Slowly but surely I’m still dropping weight.  I haven’t been back to take another body fat test, but I’m going to assume that I’m probably headed in a better direction than I was before.

So, while this was a pretty awful experience (“there’s no crying in body fat testing!”), I re-learned a lesson the hard way:  starving yourself isn’t a quick way to anything good.  As an athlete, especially, the body needs fuel and to deny it that nutrition, is asking for bad things to happen.

Just so you know.

Now, go have a cookie!

Dunkless dunking

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Published on: October 21, 2010

Just a short update on my previous post about my slightly-crazy idea of having my body fat tested in a dunk tank:

It didn’t happen.

Yup – trainer dude had the stomach flu and was kind enough to cancel instead of passing it along to me.  He’s supposed to call and reschedule, but hasn’t yet.

So, in the meantime, I put my thinkin’ cap on, started up The Google and found another alternative:

The Bod Pod.

As I understand it (and – frankly – my understanding of such concepts borders on near-idiot level), it works in much the same way as the dunk tank, but instead of measuring water displacement, it measures air displacement.

Therefore – the Dunkless Dunking!

You get put in a pod that looks much like Mork’s egg (from the TV show Mork and Mindy… and, yes I realize how much I just dated myself), and apparently you sit very, very still for about a minute and that’s it.  No water.  No gasping for air.  No near-death thoughts floating through your head.  Should be a breeze!  Right?

I’ve done the research, and reviews mostly say that the bod pod results positively correlate with hydrostatic weighing (which is the accepted gold-standard for body fat testing), which is good.  However, I did find some articles that concluded that it overestimates body fat in some individuals — which is decidedly NOT good.

The upside with using a different method entirely?  If I don’t like the answer I get, I always have the option of blaming it on the Bod Pod (it couldn’t be MY fault, could it??).

The big day?  Tomorrow.  I’ve managed to drop a few pounds from last week, so I’m as prepared as I’m going to be for this.  And after?  Dinner at my Mom’s.  Which will either be a “dang, I’m AWESOME” celebratory dinner or a “I might as well do some major emotional eating to cover up my misery” dinner.

It’ll be tasty either way.

Getting ready for the dunk

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Published on: October 16, 2010

If y’all remember back to April 2009 (really? does anyone?  I know I barely do…) I had a pretty momentous adventure:  I went and got myself dunked in a tank to measure my body fat percentage.  Oh, the fun I had!

Now that I’ve managed to (mostly) erase the memory of the day’s overwhelming panic and anxiety, I’m ready to head back. See how I’ve done in the past 18 months.  If I’ve made a difference.

When I called to make the appointment, I figured that I’d have a few weeks to prepare.  You know, diet more, exercise more and basically drop, like, 20 pounds before I went in there. Turns out, they’re the epitome of efficiency over there — I called a few days ago, and they managed to fit me in on Tuesday.  Lucky, lucky me!

Which means it’s crash diet time!  I’ve been cutting calories (and keeping up training) in hopes of dropping at least a few pounds between now and then.  As a side note, this is actually working.  Meaning, my frustration with being stuck at the same weight was me just not getting the numbers right, probably.  Which is a story for another time, I think.

So, exactly how does today me compare with April 2009 me?

I do know that I’m carrying more muscle.  I look back on my logs from then and I was bench pressing about 50-55# max and now 65# is my warmup and I’ll top out over 100#.  Curling 30# then and 50# now. Squats?  Wow.  From 45# for a set of 10 to 145# for a set of 10 now. So – stronger.  No question.

But I weigh more.  Is it all muscle?  Hard to tell.  Despite being able to see actual muscles in spots, I’m still carrying a lot of fluff.  And not tasty marshmallow fluff, either.  Just sayin’.

Are measurements a more accurate predictor?  If so – then it’s anyone’s guess since between then and now things are relatively the same.  And yes, I have measurement data that goes back a few years.  I’m a geek like that.

So, I’m a little afraid. Logically I think that my bf% has GOT to be better.  But, there’s still a voice in my head that’s not quite so sure.  And – I might add – is pretty vocal about it!

And if actually turns out to be worse than before?  Well, I don’t think I can be responsible for my reaction… I might not be the most mature person at that time (hmm… perhaps I ought to let the trainer who’s doing this know that…).  Maybe I’ll be able to hold off the wailing and gnashing of teeth until I get to the car, though.

Maybe.

To eat or not to eat…

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Published on: October 3, 2010

… that — as always — is the question.  Well, at least that’s always the question running through MY head at least.

I wasn’t one of those chosen few blessed with a metabolism that allows me to eat food of all sorts and quantities and not gain a pound.  No, I’m more the person who gains a few pounds just being in close proximity to ice cream.  It’s like magic, I tell ya. Black magic.

This past summer, with the whole not really racing thing going on, I also wasn’t training much, but still eating as if I were. And the outcome?  Pretty predictable — a 10+ pound weight gain. Just like that — POOF! And I felt pretty awful, both mentally and physically. So, what did I do? I turned to food for comfort, of course (logical, I know).  Hellllooooo additional 5 pounds on top of all that.

But then I started to get ducks in a row (my “life ducks”, as it were).  Getting more sleep. Training more.  Feeling better all around.  And yet?  I was still shoveling crap into my mouth with abandon.  Yes – I had an out-of-control duck in the house, quacking up all over the place.

Drastic measures were called for — I needed to jump-start a new nutrition plan.  After some incredibly careful and time-consuming research (read:  I read a forum post), I decided to try out the Paleo Diet for a month.  The reviews universally stated that it was hard for a few days, maybe a week, but then the results sounded like an informerical:  lose weight!  have more energy!  sleep better!  I mean, if everyone was having such great results with it, why shouldn’t I try it, right?

A brief definition of what Paleo is:  fruits, vegetables, lean meat and eggs.  This is not a low-carb diet by any stretch because all fruits and most vegetables were on the list.  What Paleo is NOT:  dairy, grains, potatoes and processed food of any type.  The basic theory is that our bodies, for millions of years, were built to process only these foods.  It hasn’t been until the last couple hundred years or so that we started adding dairy and grains to the mix.  And so – logically – our bodies aren’t as good at breaking those foods down.

Right from the beginning, I wasn’t sure that I  bought the pseudo-science behind the theory, but I knew a number of people with lactose-intolerance issues as well as gluten-intolerance issues, and thought it wouldn’t hurt to cut out those two things and see if it made a difference.  So – game on!  Not only was I getting my last nutrition duck in a row, but I was making it march, lockstep, with the others.

The weekend before the Monday that I was starting immediately put this in sharp perspective: this diet was many things, but it was certainly not a diet of convenience.  As I mentally reviewed the menu for the next week, I knew I needed to cook and cut and chop and portion out a whole lot of food.  I gamely spent most of the day Sunday in the kitchen:  I grilled up lunches and dinners, cut up fruit and vegetables for snacks, even made a batch of bison chili to freeze in lunch-portions.  One black mark against the diet already:  I had to spend a chunk of time devoted just to getting it ready.

But – onward.  With a refrigerator full of fruity tupperware and foil-wrapped meat, I was ready to rock and roll.

Breakfast was probably the toughest meal for me.  I was used to oatmeal with a greek yogurt chaser — both on the No Way In Hell Can You Eat That list.  The new generation breakfast consisted of eggs and some turkey with avocado.  Which – actually – wasn’t bad, though I did miss my usual stuff. Lunch really wasn’t much different than my normal I-grilled-last-night lunches.  And dinner? The only downside was that by the time I got home, I rarely wanted the leftovers that were in the refrigerator (quite satisfying at lunch – but didn’t want it for dinner). And was far too lazy to cook up something that met the guidelines.  Noting this trend, I started eating more during the day, and then at night I’d be satisfied with some frozen grapes or applesauce or perhaps a hard-boiled egg, not really needing a real dinner.

The first 3 days were awful.  Actually, almost beyond awful.  I felt crappy, I was hungry all the time (but still eating more calories than I ever had!) and generally lacking energy and motivation.  I took it easy these days; I backed off my training and just tried to stick to the diet. And I managed to survive without chewing my arm off (which – ironically – would have totally been on the meal plan).  By Thursday of that first week, I was back to feeling like myself, though no better than I had felt before I started the craziness.

After two weeks of the diet, I started getting better at the prep work.  I still dedicated an hour or so over the weekend to get things ready (grill some stuff and cut up some fruit), but I was spreading it out a little more, making sure I kept at least one weeknight open to do some restocking.

And so the month went.  One week I spent in class (rather than at the office) and because I wasn’t bringing in my own food, I definitely strayed — a bagel here, some pancakes there — but for all of my “I’m eating like crap!” laments, I was still eating a lot more healthy than I had been in months.

Other than that week, though, I didn’t cheat at all.  I really wanted to give this a fighting chance.

After the month was over?  The results weren’t exactly overwhelming, to be honest.  I lost a little weight (a few pounds) and about 4″ total.  I was feeling leaner, though, so that was good.  My personal opinion?  I don’t think there’s a reason for a person who doesn’t have some kind of food allergy to cut out entire food groups.  I decided that the gains I made, I could have done while still including dairy, grains and potatoes.  Just like a lot of things in life, everything in moderation — I don’t think that bread is evil, but eating an entire loaf in one sitting is (which I could totally do, truth be told).

So, my takeaway from all this?  I’ve added greek yogurt back into my diet — I felt I needed the extra calcium, since osteoporosis runs in the family.  I have pasta once a week or so.  And I’ve added two guilty pleasures back in:  Diet Pepsi and the occasional Pop-Tart.  Neither of these are going to send me to an early grave, as long as I don’t intend on surviving on those alone (and for arguments sake?  I would choose pizza and ice cream if I had to choose only two).

There are a few things that I’m definitely continuing:  lots of fruits and vegetables.  Instead of supplementing my diet with bars and low-cal “juices”, I’m going for whole foods.  And while Pop-Tarts aren’t exactly borne from nature, I’ve cut out almost all other processed food.  I don’t know for sure that it’s better for me, but it sure does SEEM like it ought to be better for me.  I’m also keeping with the very light dinner on most nights — I find that I’m just not as hungry when I get home as I used to be, which is totally awesome by me — I’m too lazy to be anything but happy with less work in the kitchen when I finally get home.

With the month over, I’m continuing to drop a bit of weight, and the 15+ pounds are just about gone.  I’m still sticking to eating healthy 95% of the time and feeling good about it.  And now that my running and training volume is up?  Yup – I totally deserve a treat like Pop-Tarts, don’t you agree?

Ker-PLUNK!

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Published on: April 30, 2009

This is going to sound strange:  recently, I’ve had two separate discussions (debates? arguments?) with two separate people on the oddest of topics – my body fat percentage.  Yes, this is what passes as lunch conversation here at work. I told of how I was currently measuring it — my Tanita scale (which – admittedly – is not necessarily accurate) and using body measurements and 3 different calculations that I averaged to derive body fat percentage (this is an example of one such method). They were all in the same ballpark, so I figured that it was about right.

“Not so fast!” these two people intoned (not at the same time, but that would have been pretty freaky cool seeing as how the conversations happened days apart).  They both looked at me and couldn’t fathom how the number could be hitting around 30%.  I laughed at them good-naturedly, knowing that a very fashionable, drapey t-shirt frequently hides the worst of my body fat sins.  *I* knew that 30% was completely possible.  I mean, really – all you have to do is ask all my friends at Culvers what their opinions are and I bet you find people who will side with me on this issue.

But in the name of science and fairness (and something new to write about), I thought it was time to get a real body fat test done.  You know, the gold standard:  the dunk tank.

Now, if you’ve been coming here awhile, you know that water is not my friend.  From my first triathlon where I found that hyperventilation and swimming don’t mix (surprising, no?)  to this season where having said that I’m not seriously racing apparently means that I don’t ever need to climb in the pool, I’ve had a troubled relationship with the element that’s supposed to be my strong suit (I *AM* a Pisces, you know).

So, the idea of having to submerge myself to get an accurate body fat test result wasn’t really my cup o’ tea, but the price was right and the challenge had been made and I couldn’t back down.  I called and made the appointment at UIC’s Human Performance Lab (which, for whatever it’s worth, made me feel slightly rat-like).  The appointment came with lots of rules: no fruit/vegetables/fiber for 24 hours before the test, no eating at all for 4 hours before the test, and come in wearing the skimpiest, tightest, sleaziest bathing suit you own (I’m paraphrasing that last rule, but that’s exactly what they meant).  The idea is that any air that’s either in you (stomach/intestines) or trapped on you (in your bathing suit) is read as additional – and erroneous – body fat.  And, lord knows, we wouldn’t want THAT!

Twenty-four hours before starting, I nixed the fruits and vegetables and all things healthy from my diet.  Let me just say – that was harder than I thought it would be!  Many, many good foods have fiber in them, as it turns out.  I survived on a mostly-dairy diet… plain yogurt, eggs, cheese.  It was a very mono-colored diet.  Blah.  Ice cream would have been included in this diet if only I weren’t doing the whole, crazy no sugar thing right now… what a waste of a good excuse to eat ice cream, you know?

On the day, I arrived on the campus of UIC a little nervous about what was going to happen. I knew the basics of the procedure, but no real details to fill in the gaps of my knowledge, and the not knowing was making me a little edgy. My hydrostatic weighing tour guide for the day was a personal trainer named Vito.  With his understated brand of humor, he immediately put me at ease, assuring me that “hardly ever does anyone panic and drown when we do this”.

Ooooookay.

After putting my not-so-skimpy, not-so-sleazy one-piece bathing suit on (hey! – I’m a triathlete – it’s all I own), I met Vito in the weighing room.  The tank was about 4’x4′ square and perhaps 6′ deep (just guess-timating here).  It didn’t look terribly foreboding (little did I know!).  Vito took some measurements (height/weight) and calibrated the machine, and then in I went!

I took a seat in the water on some PVC tubing, my head just above water, and Vito explained the procedure for the test:  first, exhale ALL the air in your lungs, either above or below water. Then, put your head completely underwater.  As you start to float a bit, anchor yourself to the PVC tubing with your hands — though, he cautioned me against keeping a death grip on the tubing, since that would skew results — and NOT in my favor.  And then, Vito would watch for air bubbles, and as soon as they stopped, you had to stay there for 4 seconds until being told that it was okay to pick your head up.

Okay, so this is the picture:  no air in your lungs.  Breath held.  Head underwater.  At this point, these will be the LONGEST FOUR SECONDS of your life.  Trust me on this.  Try it now, just on dry land.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait….

Breathe out.  All the way.  Hold it now!  4…….   3…….  2………………………….   1…………………………

See?  Not too comfortable, was it?  Add water to the mix, and it was completely, utterly unnerving the first time through.

In fact, along with the instructions Vito also made it absolutely clear that at any point if I was uncomfortable underwater, that I should pick my head up.  During the first test, I came to the end of my rope, wondering why the hell he was leaving me in there to drown and picked my head up – luckily at the same exact time, he also shouted that I was done with that round of testing.  As I pulled my head out of the water and gasped for air, I managed to suck in about half the tank.  And then after the coughing fit, and then calming myself down, it was off to go through more trials.

The way the test works is that body fat is measured by the displacement of the water.  Any air — in your lungs or even trapped by your swimsuit — will cause more water to be displaced, and therefore your body fat will read higher.  Because expelling all of your air is not necessarily something you either get right the first time, or are able to consistently repeat, the test is done a minimum of 3 times and results averaged.  After that, if your results are consistent, you might go another round or two.  If not, you test until the results are consistent or you cry uncle.

After the first miserable go-round at it, I was really nervous about having to do this a dozen times before getting sound results – wouldn’t that be just my luck?  But – on this day – luck was with me.  Even though Vito wasn’t sure I was expelling all my breath, at least I did it exactly the same way 4 times in a row — and very little variance meant that I was done!

I shakily climbed out of the tank as Vito started printing out reports.  He asked if I wanted to see the results right then, or if he should keep me in suspense until I dried off, changed and met him back in his office.  Not anticipating stellar results, I decided to wait – and plus, I had no desire to have a conversation while sopping wet and shivering, with that dunk tank kind of laughing at me in the background.

Back in Vito’s office, the time came for the big reveal.  He decided to play with me a bit, asking me what I thought the number was going to be.  I explained how my Tanita and other methods routinely put me at about 30%, but that I was willing to think that perhaps that might not be too accurate and perhaps it might be as low as maybe 27%.

He had been starting to hand the papers over to me as I was talking, and when I said that, he stopped, pulled his hand back and remarked, “Really?  You thought that high??”  as if I were a body fat idiot (which – apparently – I am).  It was here that I got my first indication that perhaps, just maybe, possibly, other people had been right.

And what you’ve been waiting for (and have read this far down to find, presumably!) — drum roll, please…

The result:  21.2%.

I think the Tanita company owes me some of my self-esteem back for totally lying to me for the past 2 years.  Can you sue for something like that?  On the other hand, it’s gratifying to see how much body fat I must have burned holding my breath for that long…!

Photographic evidence!

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Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: April 25, 2009

Well, it’s progress report time again!

Since mid-December 2008 when I started tracking until April 25, 2009…

Pounds lost: 9.6 pounds
Inches lost: 6 inches
Average BF%: 29.97% down to 28.16%*
BMI: 25.78 down to 24.13 (not that I put a whole lot of stock into BMI)
Pounds of fat: 45.0 down to 39.6 pounds
* used body measurements to calculate BF%.  Three different calculation methods used and then averaged.

So – progress!

And I’ve been taking pictures each month, and am feeling just brave and plucky enough today to share some with the whole wide interwebs world…

These are snapshots in December:

Yikes!
Yikes!

Pudgy, out of shape, and absolutely screaming “we eat too much ice cream!”.

And now – just 4 months (and countless hours in the gym and doing cardio) later:

Getting there...
Getting there...

What I like about these shots?  Progress.  Certainly I’m not done (though I’m happy that the saddle bags that I’ve had hanging off my butt cheeks are close to gone!), but it does wonders for my state of mind to know that all this work is having an impact.

I remember taking those first set of pictures and just being so disappointed that I had let myself get that bad – it was only a year or so earlier than I had been in the best shape of my life.  And more than anything, I wanted to – for once! – make a plan and stick to it.  Taking the photographs has probably been one of the best motivators in terms of helping me commit to the plan.  Nothing like undeniable proof that I needed to do something – FAST.

And – so it continues.  I feel like eliminating most sugar from my diet has had a positive impact — the past two weeks have definitely seen noticeable improvements — and I’ll continue this past the 30 days, most likely.  I also think that the weight training has been absolutely key in this process as well.  With summer and softball and other activities, it’ll be harder to fit in, but I’m not willing to let it slide and possibly take steps backwards.

It was good timing for this – just today I’ve been totally craving my beloved Diet Pepsi.  And pizza.  And, if I’m doing all that, a little ice cream to top it off.  But – I’ll be good now – I mean, I’ve posted pictures and everything.  Gotta be accoutable, right?

Sugarless: halfway through!

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Comments: 6 Comments
Published on: April 21, 2009

(just in case you’ve lost the train of thought on my recent blog posts, I started 30 days of No Sugar challenge to test out a few theories and see if maybe, just maybe, I could kick my Lean Bod project into high gear)

Over halfway through my little no-sugar experiment.  Hard to believe!  At the beginning of this, it seemed like a very long, painful road, but it’s funny how often pre-conceived notions can be entirely wrong.

I really thought this would be a difficult thing, but surprisingly enough, it hasn’t been too awful.  It’s not like I’ve been a totally cranky, un-be-aroundble (it’s a word, really!) person throughout all this (or – if I have, it isn’t related to the lack of sugar in my diet).  And even the skeptic in me has to admit that the sugar cravings have not really been too much of a problem.

Wait.  What?  No cravings, you say?

It’s true!  From almost the beginning, I haven’t really had any drive-me-crazy cravings for the sugar.  Sure, there was The Pie incident from Easter, but other than that, it just really hasn’t been an issue.  I haven’t knowingly cheated, and haven’t started making some exceptions that I thought I might (like, honey being okay or even eating a protein bar or some other snack before working out).

What’s been the key to this?

First – I really go out of my way to keep myself from being in situations where I have no choice but to eat crap.  The bad stuff is out of my house, and so far I’ve been really good about staying stocked with fresh fruit to snack on.

Second - the fresh fruit has been a godsend!  Grapes are now my most favorite-ist fruit ever. They’re portable, don’t require slicing or dicing, and are so sweet that they puts most candy to shame.

Third – I told everybody that I was doing this (and I mean EVERYBODY… if you gave me 5 minutes of your time, I would have snuck this into the conversation).  Without anyone being the wiser for it, you all became my built-in support staff.  My accountability.  My No-Sugar Police.

And the results?  They’re just starting to come in, actually.  It took about a week, but now I’m feeling better, dropping a few pounds and generally feeling like this is starting to kick in and make some changes.

I know it’s only halfway done – and only 15 days at that – but so far, so good.  What will be the hardest part is keeping up with the grocery shopping and making sure my cupboards are full so I always have a healthy choice available to me.

(Because who KNOWS what might happen if I were to run out of grapes…!!)

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