weightloss

My morning started off pretty well, with me finishing off Rachel Cosgrove’s “The Female Body Breakthrough“. If you recall, Maya sent it to me as a surprise gift last month. I had been reading something else at the time, but this past week I was finally able to get to it. I really enjoyed parts of the book, including Cosgrove’s discussions of the female hormones (and how to use your cycle to your workout benefit) and overcoming unhealthy relationships with food.

While I probably won’t adhere to everything just as written (running may be an advanced exercise that I haven’t “earned the right” to do at this point, but I’m signed up for a 12K next month, so I’m going to run!), I was completely excited about the idea of starting the strength program. While I used to strength train when I first joined the Y in 2007/2008, I didn’t keep up with it. Plus, I only used weight machines. I was always envious of those on the weight floor, working with free weights and just body weight, but the trainer who prescribed my weight circuit plans told me he wanted me to build up a little before he introduced me to free weights. I sorta never built up and made another appointment. My bad.

After finishing up my reading I did something that I think makes me either totally badass, or perhaps slightly out of my mind: I registered for the lottery entry for the 2011 Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I’m not sure why I’ve recently become inspired to try a half marathon, especially given my difficulties with running just a 5K sometimes. Nevertheless, I just decided that I wanted to try.

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Plus, I’m a sucker for bling that comes in a blue box.

One of the questions in the registration for the lotto was the following: I RUN TO BE ______.

Your job was to fill in the blank with one word. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I know most people would just say the first thing that popped into their head, but not me. I stopped to really think about why I run. After a lot of time and consideration, I declared:

I RUN TO BE FEARLESS.

I know. A weird thing to say.

I guess that because of my past and various things that have gone on in my life, I am always afraid. Of failure. I could never run as a kid, so I think part of me just associates the act of becoming a runner (or at least completing a substantial race distance, such as a half marathon) with reinforcing the idea in my brain that I can do anything I want to. I just need to commit and do it. All of the doubts, worries and silliness is all in my head. I want to conquer this running thing so that in the future, when I think I can’t, I can remind myself of what I have achieved and that if I can haul my butt 13.1 miles, I can do anything.

With thoughts of my new mantra ringing in my brain, I closed my laptop, changed into my workout clothes and headed towards the Y. I figured I’d drop off my clothes in a locker and do the AT&T loop. I needed to get in a run as my wisdom teeth extractions had put me behind in my Bay to Breakers preparations. Just as I was about to hit Market and Van Ness, I approached a large (maybe 10 or so) group of homeless/street people sitting on the sidewalk. As I started to walk past them, one of them yelled out something at me.

I don’t want to get into what he said specifically. Essentially, he made a comment about how a part of my body looked in my workout clothes. A nasty, rude, offensive and frankly, mean comment.

I flipped him off and kept walking.

But the damage was done. I hadn’t even looked back to see which guy said it or who was laughing. I was looking at the ground, feeling my face turn bright red and tears welling up in my eyes. I kept walking. I used to have strangers publicly humiliate me due to my size on a daily basis, but it has probably been a couple of years since it has happened and frankly, it hurt a lot more than I remembered it hurting.

I briefly toyed with the idea of skipping my run. I felt fairly demoralized, all of the joy from the morning’s fitness related activities drained from me. I thought about just going to the Y, showering, changing into my street clothes and then going to work early. However, when I got to the locker room, I just shoved my backpack in a locker, grabbed a runner’s stamp from the front desk and went out to the Embarcadero.

The first mile hurt. I ran against the wind as fast as I could and I made myself promise that I wouldn’t stop until I reached the turn around point near AT&T Park’s Giants retail store. I was pushing myself so hard I couldn’t even think about anything. I just ran. When I hit the turn around I felt spent. It may’ve only been 1.25 miles, but I was huffing and puffing as if I had just ran a marathon. I walked for the rest of the distance around the park, catching my breath and drinking my Nuun. I thought about what had happened and how I felt.

Crappy.

But I realized it wasn’t because of how I looked in my work out clothes. I had already noticed the way my body looked in this outfit. I hadn’t been too bothered by it. I mean, if I am in my work out clothes, that means I’m working out! No shame there. I realized that it just hurt because I was ashamed of the fact that I haven’t been giving things my all in life. Even my recent plans. Though I’ve been doing so much better, I’m still not doing my best. That is the only thing in the world that a person should ever be ashamed of.

If you are doing your best, what more can you do?

So what I put to myself was the following question: Every time someone teases you or gives you a hard time, are you going to cry? Or are you going to be fearless because you’ve done your best?

There is only one choice worth making.

Once I hit the Embarcadero I took a leisurely pace back to the Y and finished up my 2.5 mile loop.

While I felt much better after my run, I’ve still felt pretty low today. I am making consistent efforts to not “be the fat girl” anymore, but sometimes it is just hard to be convinced when others have the nerve to tell you to your face, whether it is true or not, that you still are.

In my last post, I spoke of something that had changed since I was a child — I feel a little guilty about taking Christmas presents.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about that and I realized that something else has changed also.

I can no longer eat holiday food for days on end without a noticable food/sugar/over indulgence hangover.

As a kid and as an overweight adult, I was capable of eating and eating and eating. Sweets, rich food and all of the things that only come around during the holidays stood no chance around me. Despite the obscene amount of sweets that were presented to me as gifts or as items just left around the house or office, I would manage to eat through them all by New Year’s Day.

No joke.

That’s a lot of sugar consumption for 7 days….

Those days, are no more.

I have been feeling like I’ve been dying of a sugar overdose for days. I admit, despite being pretty “holiday’d out”, I still have been having a few cookies or pieces of candy a day. I was feeling pretty lousy about my lack of self-control, until I realized how far I’ve come.

A couple of weeks ago, I made this post, in which I showed half of the batch of Peppermint Mocha Fudge that I bid on during Tina’s bake sale fundraiser. I said that I had plans on freezing my half for later, as there were too many treats hanging about.

If this were 2006, I wouldn’t have frozen that fudge. I might’ve told you I was going to, out of embarrassment at the thought of you all thinking I was a fatty for eating it, but more than likely, I would’ve sat in my room eating it until I was sick.

But it isn’t 2006.

It’s 2010, and my half of the batch of fudge is safely in the freezer. I froze it with a few squares per Ziploc baggie, so that when I am ready to enjoy it again, I can just take out a small portion to enjoy. I did leave a few pieces on the counter to enjoy now. I still haven’t finished them all.

The day before that post I had made another post about all of the sweets that I was surrounded with.

In 2006, all of those TJ’s candy packages would’ve been long emptied and discarded. The Melty Kisses and most of those kit kats would’ve been gone too. The kitkats and Melty Kisses probably wouldn’t have made it to that photo shoot even.

But it isn’t 2006.

In 2010, I did eat a few more pieces of TJ’s candy, but all three of those partially eaten bags of candy are still in my desk drawer at work. There’s been so much food around, I haven’t been the least bit tempted to go back to them since that post. The Melty Kisses that I claimed wouldn’t make it to Christmas are still here. I didn’t eat another one after taking those pictures. I think I may’ve eaten ONE kitkat, but I think it was from the previous batch Maya had brought back in June.

That’s right. In 2006, there wouldn’t have been any kitkats from June to eat in December.

When I ran the Christmas Classic 5K on the 19th (recap is coming…waiting for my official time….it’s still not posted!! Grr!), they gave us Double Rainbow ice cream after the race and there were 4 See’s Truffles in our goodie bags.

If it were 2006, I would’ve eaten the ice cream AND all four truffles on the walk back home from the 5K.

Who am I kidding?  I wouldn’t have been RUNNING a 5K in 2006. Period!

9 days later and I still haven’t eaten the candy.

In addition, my Mom gave me a box of See’s in my Christmas stocking, as she always does. That would’ve easily been half gone by this point if it were 2006.

My See’s box is still in its plastic wrapping. The Swiss Miss and Kashi Cookies are unopened too.

So what does that all mean?

I’ve spent an amazing amount of time this year beating myself up because I put on 15+ pounds. Because there were some moments where I overindulged. A few times where I even ate an entire box of cookies or an entire pint of ice cream in one day. By myself. Are any of those things good? Of course not! But it’s life. Sometimes we do those things that are not good for us.

And after we’ve done them, it’s time to move on and look at the bigger picture.

I have come a long way, and while there still are bumps in the road, I feel good about all of the changes that have stuck.

Another fact:

In 2006, I would’ve been too ashamed to write this post. To tell you all about how I used to binge behind closed doors on chocolate and snacks.

Not in 2010. I’m not willing to waste one ounce of shame this holiday season on what has already been done. I suggest you not waste any either.

What changes have you made that have stuck?

Like many people in the U.S., last night I watched the premiere of season 10 of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”. I haven’t seen every season, but I’ve seen quite a few, as well as watched some of the seasons of the Australian version of the show. To be honest, I have really mixed feelings about TBL.

On one hand, there is a serious problem in America, and all over the world. People are putting on weight at a rate that has never been seen before in history. It’s not a surprise either. The small size drink at Burger King is the size that a large used to be. A typical meal at IHOP or a comparable restaurant has over 1,000 calories in it. Aside from the major portion distortion in this country, there is the fact that we’re all so busy. Work. School. People are tired before they ever get out of bed and it leads to poor choices. Not to mention how much time we all spend glued to our television sets, computers and cell phones. I know, I know. The pot calling the kettle black. It’s true though. There is nothing in the culture that promotes healthy living. People wake up one day, 100 pounds overweight and have no idea how it happened or what to do about it. Even worse are the children who are starting out with all of these lousy philosophies and habits. Kids are growing up these days without the knowledge to be anything but unhealthy.

So with such a big obesity problem, obviously a TV show like TBL must be a good idea, right?

Well, yes and no.

The way I see it is there are several pros to the public being exposed to shows like The Biggest Loser and Losing It With Jillian:

  • The audience is exposed to the idea that weight can be lost without medication or surgery through the use of proper nutrition and exercise.
  • The audience is exposed to the idea that anyone can lose weight, if they try.
  • The audience is exposed to the idea that weight loss isn’t merely a physical transformation, but also a mental and emotional change that can be just as difficult.
  • The public is exposed to the outreach programs that former contestants and the trainers provide.

When you are obese, you often feel like there is no answer to the problem. You feel helpless and unsure of where you would even begin if you were to try to get healthy. All of the major diets out there promote drastic changes, most of which include caloric deprivation and intense workout schedules. Most of these plans are near to impossible for the average person to stick to long enough to lose a significant amount of weight, and if the person does manage to achieve the “results not typical” endpoint, they almost always put ALL of the weight back on…or worse, they put on MORE weight than they started with. This leaves the person frustrated, depressed and feeling worthless. So they look to surgery or pills to solve their problems.

Weight Loss game shows are positive, because they actually do teach the contestants (and the viewers at home) about nutrition and fueling their body. They talk about calories in and calories out. The contestants aren’t on drugs, they’re not having surgery. They’re just eating and exercising, which is in fact, all one has to do to lose weight. The viewer sees these individuals starting out the process at extreme weights and then through hard work and sweat, they lose the weight. They see the back stories for all of the contestants and they watch the emotional breakthroughs (and breakdowns) each person goes through to get to the finale. The audience starts to think that if these people who have the same problems and struggles as they do can lose all of the weight, then they can too. It inspires people to get up off of the couch. Why? Because the audience feels that this is the real deal.

Which leads me to the cons:

  • This is NOT the real deal.
  • The audience is exposed to unrealistic weight loss goals.
  • The audience is exposed to unrealistic fitness goals.
  • The audience is misled to believe that the results are typical.
  • The audience is misled to believe that the nutrition and fitness advice presented to them is actually what got the contestants to their goal weights.
  • The audience is exposed to a bombardment of product placement.
  • I repeat, this is NOT the real deal.

The fact of the matter is, The Biggest Loser is a GAME SHOW. Pure and simple. The problem is that many people don’t view it as such. Even one of the people on last night’s show said something to the effect of, “This is the only diet plan that he’s ever seen that works. Where the people keep it off.” People view TBL as a diet plan. While as a game show and a motivational tool it may excel, as a diet plan, TBL completely fails.

The show has people losing 10 pounds a week, which is in no way healthy or responsible. The amount of weight these contestants lose weekly is more weight than people who’ve had gastric bypass lose in the same time period. Healthy weight loss is somewhere in the ballpark of 1-2 pounds per week, with the understanding that sometimes you may lose more, sometimes you may lose less and sometimes you may lose nothing. Sometimes you may even gain. Why? Because that’s the way the body works. Why does it work that way? Probably because dramatic weight loss can lead to heart attacks and all sorts of other medical complications. So all of these people at home who believe this is a healthy diet plan try to emulate it on their own and when they don’t lose 15 pounds in 5 days they freak out and consider themselves failures. They feel that they aren’t good enough, that even the weight loss plan where everyone can succeed doesn’t work for them. It’s crushing. Or life threatening if they overdo it and tax their bodies beyond what they are capable of handling.

So why do these contestants lose so much on the ranch? Because it is television. If people didn’t lose dramatic amounts of weight, no one would watch the show. If you remember back to the first season, the weigh ins were in no way as extreme. Sure it was probably more weight than you would lose at home, but it wasn’t 20lbs in a week. Then all of a sudden people were dropping MASSIVE amounts of weight. America has this problem with instant gratification. The network knows this, so they’re providing the viewer with just that. Instant weight loss. How? Well, some past contestants, like Kai Hibbard suggest dehydration and caloric deprivation (yes, just like in all of your typical fad diets) take place. Other contestants have admitted the same thing. Aside from that, there is of course the less dramatic reason–the ranch is a controlled environment. There are no cupcakes on the counter, beer in the fridge nor is there pizza delivery when you are on the ranch. All of your choices are healthy, so obviously you’re going to be eating better than if you were in reach of a Jack in the Box.

The least important aspect of TBL that really irks me is the product placement. Yes, yes. I know. Without advertising there is no money to produce the shows. But, really, you don’t need Glad Ware to keep your food fresh, nor do you need to eat a certain type of gelatin or yogurt for a snack. You don’t need fancy gym equipment nor a BodyBugg to lose weight. Anyone can lose weight. Sure, I sometimes buy something to aid in my weight loss/fitness efforts. I just bought new shoes on Monday and I do have a Polar Heart Rate Monitor…but I didn’t get these things straight off the bat. It was probably 6-8 months of weight loss before I bothered to get a heart rate monitor and I only got the shoes because my body is falling apart. People at home think, “Gee, I want to get healthy, but I can’t afford the healthy snacks, Brita filters and fancy watches. I guess I’ll just have to be fat.” If only these people knew they could just drink from the tap…this isn’t Mexico, after all!

So I guess you’re wondering why I watch the show despite all of these bad examples being set.

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For the same reason everyone else does. I like final weigh ins with the dramatic before and after shots. I like to see the contestants work through the same emotional struggles I went through while losing weight. I like the excitement. Plus, I won’t lie to you. I do find motivation in the show, despite its faults. When I see these people pushing through their workouts, Bob and Jillian yelling at them, it motivates me to try harder. The next time I’m working out, I remind myself that if they can go another 30 seconds, then so can I. This is the positive part of the show. If it wasn’t for this aspect, I probably wouldn’t bother tuning in at all.

I think it is great that so many people have been inspired to get up off of the couch and do something about their lives because of this show. I really do. I just worry about those who will be harmed by their desperation to achieve what they see on TV. The BIggest Loser spends lots of time taking credit for all of the good that the show spreads, but I think it only fair that they take some responsibility for the harm it causes as well.

What do you guys think of The BIggest Loser?

I’ve been postponing making a first entry in this blog, as the decision of what to say first was weighing heavily on my brain. I went through tons of ideas and just couldn’t pick out where to begin. Luckily for me (and hopefully you!), something happened yesterday that ended all of the useless planning.

I ran my first race!

Now in the blogging world, that may not seem like such a big accomplishment. But it is. Let me explain.

I used to be overweight. I’m about 5’6″ and at my heaviest, I weighed about 232 lbs (though my doctor told me after I had already accepted this as my start weight that I had actually weighed closer to 240 lbs at a previous visit…). As you can imagine, I was really unhappy. All of my pictures looked a lot like this:

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Now as you can see, this girl to the left is smiling. Heck, she even is giving the thumbs up sign. But she isn’t happy and it shows. I literally felt trapped in this body. I always felt tired and sick, though at the time, I had no idea why. You see, I had always been this way. My whole family is this way. Overweight, unhappy and lost.

I won’t get into the weight loss story here, as that is a post in itself. The fact of the matter is that this girl to my left had a saying: “Alexa doesn’t run.” I really used to say that. My co-worker is a very serious, competitive runner. He does crazy things like run the Boston Marathon. He was always encouraging me to give it a try and I would just say with a very serious face, “Alexa doesn’t run.”

You see, running and I have had it out for each other for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I wasn’t capable of running in the relay races because I would have coughing attacks. They may have even been psychosomatic, as I got teased relentlessly for being slow. I was always the last picked for teams in gym and in middle school, the thing I despised about P.E. the most was the dreaded mile run. I think I only passed it ONCE. In 6th grade. With a D- time. Eventually I gave up even trying to run the thing and I would simply walk the 2.5 times around the block that the mile comprised. Most of the time, the gym teacher would say something like, “Oh jeez. We don’t have time to wait for you if you’re not going to even bother to try. Just sit down.”

Hey, works for me. Now instead of having to run around the block, I only had to walk around it once! Score for the fat kid!

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Anyway, since those youthful days of shame and teasing, I have changed. About 3 years ago I started on the path of cleaning up my lifestyle and I lost somewhere in the ballpark of 90lbs. I’ve put maybe 15lbs back on over the last year, but I’ve maintained most of the loss and I certainly didn’t give up on the healthy lifestyle. Though I have had lapses, I’ve still tried to keep myself active. I walk 3+ miles to work when I can. Last year, I learned how to swim (yes, you read correctly, at 27 years old, I didn’t know how to swim…and I live in a coastal area…). I have a gym membership. I hike. But running? Eh….no.

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I tried to like running. I went back to my old middle school and made myself run around the block. Sort of battling old demons, you know? Nope. Still hated it. I tried to get into it on the treadmill several times, but I just couldn’t make myself finish C25K. I hated the treadmill. How boring. A couple of months ago, however, I decided to try something. I had a theory. Maybe I didn’t need to face old demons or run in place for 30 minutes. Maybe I needed a whole new experience. So I put on my running shoes and took off for “The Panhandle”, a stretch of park in San Francisco that, well, looks like the handle of a pan. I tried to jog it. It was painful. I had to stop a lot….but you know, I didn’t hate it. Over the next few weeks, I kept trying and I got better.

Hey, maybe this running thing isn’t so bad.

I’ve been doing this run for a while now and I’ve gotten myself up to a 2.5-3 mile course. Only problem is that I still have to take walking breaks. These breaks really slow my pace down and they sort of made me think that I was no where near ready to run a race. But all around me, people in the blog would run races. My co-worker runs races. Maybe I could run a race. I ended up picking a really small 5K to try — The Marina Green 5K. It is put on by a local running club, Dolphin South End Runners. They put on a race almost every week that is low key and cheap (read: $5 for a non-member!).

I went back and forth about whether or not I would show up. I had been feeling pretty sick on Saturday and I got NO sleep the night before the race, thanks to my cat Cosette (Cosie, for short!) finding a moth in my apartment to hunt all night. Cosie, I love you, but you are too darned loud!

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In the end, I decided to go. Though it is my normal tendency to not tell anyone about my goals in case I fail (yeah, I know, unhealthy…), I actually had told several people about my intent to run this race, so I really didn’t want to let anyone down. Most of all, I didn’t want to let myself down. After all, there was nothing to lose…no matter what my time ended up being, it would still end up being my PR, right?!

So I decided to do this thang!

Breakfast: One slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and 1/2 banana. 1 cup of coffee (not pictured)

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Observing the crowd:

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Nervous…I am going to run a race?! What?!

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Finished!

170 out of 205 runners; 33:17 total; 10:44 pace

(and I ran the WHOLE thing! No walking breaks, baby!)

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The moral of this story?

Alexa DOES run!