Weekly Update: It’s a Race, Not a Sprint

(Though my triathlon is technically both, but that’s another story.)

Without further ado:

As of Wednesday, June 15th:

Bust: 43.5″ (-.5″)
Waist: 35.5″ (no change)
Hips: 45″ (no change)
Right thigh: 23.5″ (-.5″)
Left arm: 12.5″ (-.5″)

Weight: 199.1 lbs (+.5 pounds since last status post)

This week: N/A
Since 5/9/11: -9.5 in/ -5.7 lbs

I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, or even if I’m doing anything wrong, or if this is just how I am. I like that I’ve lost inches (even in my arms – the amount of flesh hanging from my arms is kind of ridiculous), but my weight jumped up 2 pounds after several days of either dropping or no change. And I don’t know what I did.

It’s pretty discouraging to think that one cup of tea with Splenda, or a little salad dressing from the work salad bar that might have something in it to make it sweet, or one too many walnuts can completely derail my body and cause me to stop losing weight.

It’s also highly possible that I’m a) totally overreacting and b) in desperate need of a little more patience. Just maybe.

One change I will be making: right now I’m not eating breakfast before hitting the gym, and if any one thing may have thrown me off, it’s probably that. Which means getting my groggy ass out of bed a bit earlier and eating something, preferably that’s high in protein. I could scramble eggs in my sleep, and I may be literally doing that soon.

And another: I’m going to start tracking more variables. I already record my weight, my workouts, and my water intake (which is 100+ ounces a day, most days), but it’s in my nature to want MOAR DATA. So I’m going to start keeping track of my meals, my, um, bodily processes, and, well, anything else that might be useful. My concern is that I’ll go too far (because I just might have a slightly obsessive component to my personality…maybe a little), but I think I’ll feel better about this whole process if I know I’m doing everything I can to ensure its success.

Otherwise, I’ll end up going back to french fries and coke and all the things I used to eat (*drool*), and that’s just right out. Dammit.

Setbacks and Forward Movement

Libra graph

So, this is my Libra graph for the past week, and the primary reason I’ve even silent. There’s a couple things going on here.

Last Saturday morning I felt pretty good. My weight was at an all-time low and it was Cheat Day!😀 And boy did I cheat – McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, and sautéed soft shell crabs at dinner for my Mom’s birthday. The next day I weighed myself (I actually brought my scale to my Mom’s with me), and was a bit shocked. My weight had gone up 5 pounds. Now, I’ve always gained weight after cheat day, and according to Four Hour Body, water weight gain is to be expected. Plus, the weight is lost over the next 48 hours. Except my weight didn’t go down like it has in the past.

I have a couple of theories on what may have happened:

  1. Hormones

Without getting into details, my hormones were definitely in flux at about the time that I had my cheat day. Estrogen and testosterone have direct effects on how the body metabolizes glycogen (something I learned from Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, which I’ll talk about in more depth after I finish it).

  1. Exercise

I’m not sure what effect all of the exercising I’m doing has had on my fat loss. Why We Get Fat hypothesizes that exercise can actually hinder fat loss because it increases appetite. I’m not sure how much I buy that, but I will say I’ve been quite the food monster lately. It’s a little strange to go from someone known for never finishing her food to someone who cleans her plate with no problems. (More on this in a minute.)

  1. Proper Bingeing Techniques

In Four Hour Body, there’s a Chapter called “Damage Control”. It’s about how to binge without putting on fat, and I haven’t implemented any of those strategies on Cheat Day. Up until now, I honestly haven’t needed them. I can’t do the supplement stack yet as I lack funds (next week though, it’s on), but I can do some of the other things: consuming citrus juice and caffeine, eating more slowly so my glucose doesn’t spike, and doing low level exercises before and after meals that will encourage my body to use the extra glucose for that instead of sticking it into my fat cells

I’ve done a lot of thinking this week, and came to a few conclusions.

First, I’m sticking with Slow Carb. I’ve looked around at a few other diets (this one in particular…which I can’t do and still tri train, but I may come back to it after training is done), but honestly I haven’t been on this one long enough to really judge whether it works or not. The other thing (something I picked up from here is that I really need to just do the Slow Carb program the way it’s written. No substitutions, no varying, no nothing. Maybe when I’ve reached my first goal I can look at changing some things up. And honestly, I haven’t had any issues eating exactly the way that’s outlined in the book. I guess it’s just a part of my nature to fiddle with things, but that’s coming to an end.

Third, and in direct opposition to what I just said, I may consider splitting my Cheat Day into two Cheat Meals, or at least going from dinner to lunch instead of all in one day. It’s a strategy I first read about in The Fat Yogi as a way to build some flexibility when there’s a special meal during the week that you don’t want to miss. This week I went to Bad Decisions for their Beer ‘N Bacon Happy Hour, and I knew it would be nigh on impossible to limit myself to Slow Carb friendly dishes. So I went ahead a cheated (and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT). I ended up deciding to just keep the party going, and had a cheat breakfast and lunch the next day, with a Slow Carb dinner Friday night. And the thing is I didn’t put on any extra weight. I ate what I wanted – alcohol, white rice, pancakes, sliders, barbecue sauce – and my weight stayed pretty steady. And as of this morning, I’m down almost 3 pounds in 2 days.

Lastly, I realized that if I have to choose between triathlon training and weight loss, I’m choosing triathlon training. The first week of training didn’t seem to effect my weight loss, and as I said earlier, I’m not sure how much it had to do with my week long plateau. But I realized that completing this triathlon is extremely important to me – more important than losing weight. It surprised me a little. I’ve wanted to be thinner/lighter for so long, and tried so many times to do it, and now that the goal may be in my grasp I may be choosing something else. I figure that a) as Tim Ferris says in a later chapter on building muscle: even if you gain a little fat while building your physique, you can always switch back to Slow Carb and lose it later and b) I won’t be training forever. I have my eye on a couple of Fall races (assuming Iron Girl is as awesome as I think it’s going to be and I actually want to do it again), but after that I will take a break from  training and concentrate on other things. Right now I have no plans on being a professional triathlete, so I know that as long as I maintain my fitness level, I’ll be able to pick things up again in the Spring and get ready for the new season.

Relatedly, I’m taking a hard look at my eating as it relates to my training. The beans I eat seem to provide enough carbs for me to complete my workouts without too much trouble, but I know that I may need to start adding small amounts of high quality carbs back into my diet in advance of some of my heavier training days (such as when I have a “brick” workout scheduled, which is when I do two out of three events back-to-back). It may be as simple as consuming meal replacement shake or glucose gel. Also, though Slow Carb doesn’t require calorie counting, I think some amout of tracking is inescapable if I want to be sure I’m getting the right amounts of macronutrients that will keep my body properly fueled. I’ve got to figure out an easy way to do that, as well as not overthink it (which is why I quit doing it in the first place). [Sidenote: there are so many approaches to this seemingly simple question!! I’m guessing I’ll just have to experiment and find what works best for me.]

So here I am, once again rededicated to my cause. There’s a strength training workout in my immediate future and posts about my training, what I’m eating, and a few other things. If you read this far, then thank you!🙂 I can’t promise I won’t hit another speed bump (and subsequent blogging silence), but I can say I’ll try.

Measurements and status tomorrow!

Libra Chart for May and New Training Log

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This is my weight chart for May. I didn’t start weighing myself until May 9th, and not daily until May 16th. Each dot represents my actual weight that morning, and the red line is a trend line based on the average of the last 7 days. As long as my trend line is sloped downwards, I’m on the right track.

The dots that are above the trend line are the mornings after Cheat Days. As you can see, my weight takes a day or two to equalize, and then drops a little more.

Weighing myself in the morning has become a ritual I look forward to. It satisfies the fiddly, Type A side of my personality to have so much data laid out in such an elegant fashion. Plus, having a rough date for when I will reach my goal makes me giddy.

In other news, I decided to start keeping a log of my workouts. If you’re interested in knowing what I’m doing to get ready for my tri, here’s the Google Spreadsheet. I’ll be adding a link to the sidebar as well.

“Before” Pictures

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It occurred to me this weekend that I haven’t really taken or posted proper “before” pictures. So, without further ado, here I am as of Monday.

I’m doing this from my phone for the first time, so I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out. ;D

I figure I’ll keep taking these every weekend I have a boyfriend around to take them, but I’ll probably only post them once a month or so.

I also took a set sans clothes/with underwear, but the only way those are seeing the light of day is if the day cones that I reach my goal AND I feel comfortable in a bikini. Not impossible, but still a ways off.

The thing is, I took similar pics in December (when I originally was starting Four Hour Body), so it was pretty gratifying seeing how much my body has changed since then, and after only a few weeks of real effort.

Weekly Update: Passing Milestones, Goal Adjustments, and Training

As of Monday, May 30th:

Bust: 44″ (no change)
Waist: 35.5″ (-1)
Hips: 45″ (no change)
Right thigh: 24″ (no change)
Left arm: 13″ (no change)

Weight: 198.6 lbs

This week: -1 in/ -5.2 lbs
Since 5/9/11: -8 in/ -6.2 lbs

It’s been quite a while since I’ve weighed less than 200 pounds.

All in all, a pretty good week. I modified my goal in Libra from 165 pounds to 185 pounds. I chose 185 because it’s the lightest I can remember being in recent memory, when I was restricting calories and working out like crazy. I got there and my weight didn’t budge, and I got discouraged and stopped caring (yet again). 185 is just a way post – once I hit it I’ll just readjust my goal and keep trucking. Libra tells me that at the rate I’m going, I’ll hit my goal by 7/28/11. And every pound I lose, that date moves up a little more.

Plus it makes the weight graph look much more manageable.

Last Week’s Goal: Water Consumption

I set a daily goal of 100 ounces of water a day (approximately half my body weight), and for the most part I’ve met it. I’ve found that if I drink 20 ounces of water at home, it sets me up for the whole day. I try to have hit my goal before I leave work, since I find drinking water in the evenings much harder than during the day at my desk. Weekends were also a challenge, but buying 50 oz bottles of water from 7-11 and sipping them all day definitely helped. The Hydrate app was a big help too, and it allowed me to accurately track my consumption and poked me when it had been too long between entries.

This Week’s Goal: Thermodynamics and Triathlon Training

There’s a chapter in Four Hour Body that talks about the effects of temperature on the body’s ability to burn fat. Without getting too deep into the science of it, he and his test subjects found that cold exposure is an effective way to increase fat loss. Now, I’ll try just about anything once, and if exposure to cold can help lose weight then I’m all for it. I’ve started taking cold showers in the morning (actually, 1-2 minutes warm and then the remaining 5-10 cold, according to the instructions) which are an experience, to say the least, and tonight I’ll be putting a homemade ice pack across my shoulders and upper back for 20-30 minutes just before bed. I’m considering adding ‘drink at least 500 mL of ice water immediately upon waking’, but I flat out refuse to take ice cold baths – that’s just crazy. I shiver enough in the shower!

As for my triathlon, it is now 13 weeks away. I though it was 12, which was why I started back at the gym on Monday. But after actually writing the whole thing out, I’m a week early. It’s ok though – I figure this is just a breaking in period, and I’ll repeat the week #1 workouts twice. Plus it gives me a chance to really gauge how my ankle feels, and whether I’m going to be able to start jogging in order to get ready for my race. I’m using the training plan from Your First Triathlon, which is tailored for beginners and to last the 12 weeks right up until my race.

Weekly Update: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

As Monday, May 23rd:

Bust: 44″ (no change)
Waist: 36.5″ (+1)
Hips: 45″ (+1)
Right thigh: 24″ (no change)
Left arm: 13″ (no change)

Weight: 203.8 lbs

This week: +2 in/ -1 lbs
Since 5/9/11: -5 in/ -1 lbs

Well…I can’t say it’s not a bit disappointing to see inches go up instead of down – even though I’m pretty sure I know why the waist measurement, at least, went up. And though I’m down one pound, I was down three pounds just a day earlier.

So what happened? Two words: CHEAT DAY.

On the whole, this was a good week. I was much better about adhering to the specifics of the diet. Though I had decided it was ok to drink Coke Zero, I didn’t actually partake (and have not been really craving caffeine or sugar, which is PRETTY SHOCKING HONESTLY).

I had a mini-cheat on Friday: Truck Sliders from Gypsy Queen Cafe. I am totally unrepentant, and if you had eaten those sliders you would be too.

I made my first (and second) visit to Chipotle since starting and learned that, verily, Burrito Bols without rice are just as delicious as those with. And honestly, I was never really big on all that rice anyway. For me it was little more than a means of shoving more sour cream into my mouth. And I am perfectly capable fo finding other ways to do that.

This week I started weighing myself daily, and using  Libra to track it. It makes me feel like I’ve got a finger on the pulse of my body, so to speak. I got the idea from The Fat Yogi‘s post about the tips and tricks that have helped him lose 41 pounds:

2. Weigh Daily: Ignore what the pros say about weighing weekly. There is no research that shows that weighing weekly is better than weighing daily. Daily weights give you a running total of what direction you’re heading.

Also, I read The Hacker’s Diet quite a while back, so I was familiar with the idea that body weight tracked over time can offer an accurate picture of whether that extra pound or two is just your body’s normal fluctuations, or whether you need to reexamine your eating.

Which brings me to: Cheat Day. I had a luncheon to attend on Sunday, so I moved my Cheat Day so that I wouldn’t have to worry too much about what was on the menu. Mistake #1 was that I didn’t eat any breakfast (Poor Planning strikes again!).

[Actually, that’s Mistake #2. Mistake #1 was going to MEX the night before for a friend’s birthday and drinking way more than I intended and yet not getting drunk! Stupid weak drinks. If I’m going to consume those calories it should WORTH IT.]

As for what I did eat: an entire liter of Coke, a 7-Eleven corn dog thingy, the luncheon (crab cakes, the-salad-that-was-not-very-good, the-croutons-which-were, a yeast roll (which I wish I had eaten more of), two servings of rosemary potatoes, undercooked green beans, cake and icing, and a little bit of rice pudding), a caramel sundae from Dairy Queen, another 20 oz Coke, and 5 nuggets with sweet and sour sauce, fries, and an orange soda from Wendy’s.

Whew.

I woke up this morning feeling sluggish and bloated, so I was totally unsurprised at both my waist measurement and my weight going up 2 pounds. Mistake #23 of my Cheat Day was not drinking nearly enough water, something I’m correcting today as I restore my equilibrium. Which brings me to:

This Week’s Goal: Water Consumption

I’m drinking more water than I was, but I’m still not necessarily drinking enough day in and day out. So my goal this week is to drink at least half my body weight in ounces of water, daily. I brought an extra measuring cup in to work so I can track my water here, and I downloaded an app called Hydrate so I can track my water intake. So far, so good. Once I start drinking water it’s easy to keep it up, but remembering to keep going is an issue. Luckily, the app will remind me every 90 minutes between 9 am and 8 pm.

Extinction Bursts and Not Getting Derailed

One of my favorite blogs is called You Are Not So Smart. They write about human nature, psychology, and in particular the ways we tend to sabotage ourselves. As I’ve begun this whole fitness thing, there have been a coupe posts that have really helped me get a clear picture of what motivates my behavior.

They’re running a contest for way to illustrate the concepts they discuss, in celebration of a book deal. The very first entry they posted shows a fan who lost 30 lbs in 3-4ish months, and was submitted to illustrate “Extinction Bursts“. And much like that fan, reading their post about the phenomenon helped something click in my head, and makes it a lot more likely I won’t go through this again.

What’s an extinction burst? It’s a Class A Freak Out that your brain pulls when you go cold turkey on any behavior that it enjoys (warning – here be oversimplifications. For a much better breakdown on how this works, see the post). Over time, we become conditioned to rewarding ourselves through high fat, high sugar, high calorie foods. And those foods are good. They taste good, and after eating them we feel satisfied and content. It becomes our routine, and our brain gets used to all that wonderful pleasure.

Until we change it up, and eat healthier, exercise, and stop partaking in all of those behaviors that served our ancestors so well but only make us fatter and less healthy. And like any parent of a toddler knows, when you deny a reward that we have become accustomed to having, a tantrum is imminent:

Just before you give up on a long-practiced routine, you freak out. It’s a final desperate attempt by the oldest parts of your brain to keep getting rewarded.

And despite knowing all of this, I’ve fallen for my brain’s deception countless times. Hook, line, and sinker.

My backsliding last week was an example. First I had just one coke, but one became two, and then two a day, and by the end of the week I was scarfing rosemary garlic fries and beer (at The Brewer’s Art) and telling myself that I’d make it up later.

This week I’ve been a lot more successful. I’ve found that being aware of what’s going on goes a long way toward ensuring I don’t fall victim – much like the contest entrant above. Yesterday morning I had the most intense craving for orange juice I think I’ve ever had, and there’s definitely some generalized carb craving going on. But I recognize all of it for what it is, and remind myself: on Cheat Day, you can have all that and more!

[“Woot!” says carb-craving me.]

Another good way to deal is with a strategy I was reminded of by a recent post from Get Fit Slowly. I look at every opportunity to deviate from my diet as a single choice. At that specific moment, what’s more important: the fleeting pleasure of whatever it is I could be eating (and the potential for a further slide if I’m not careful), or sticking to my committment and meeting my goals?

And sometimes? I go with Door Number 1, which is the other part of it: one lapse doesn’t kill a diet (or a dieter for that matter). I can have a drink (which I have had this week), I can limit it to just the one drink, and the next day I’m right back to the same meals I’ve been eating all week.

I honestly can’t wait (weight, ha!) for Monday. I’m excited. I want to see the results. If they’re good, I’ll be ecstatic! And if they’re not so good, then I’ll have a starting point to make some changes. Either way I’m moving forward, and that’s an awesome feeling.