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The New Hotness

 

Team Phoenixborn

Okay okay, I know I haven’t been writing. I have Reasons™ that involve things like job interviews, 100-and-Firelands weather, pulled my back, being a Responsible Adult™, and other such nonsense that, while I’ve been doing my best to keep on track, it’s the bloggingthat has gone by the wayside.

And that’s okay.

I have plans.

The first step in the plans?

New website, complete with my own domain. YAY!

I’m gonna plug Safe Shark Hosting here, because Vitae is awesome and got my blog transferred within hours of signing up. Also? Amazing prices. So yeah, if you’re looking for a great place to get a webhost, check him out. Great sales and all that. (Seriously, I got my domain for $3 for the year. Totally worth it, considering I was thinking about getting a domain anyway!)

A new domain requires a new focus, and I want to be a little less about JUST my journey, and actually push that focus outward a bit. People have been telling me I’ve motivated them, so I want to do more!

So…Team Phoenixborn. Because it’s not just about me, but I’ll gladly be your coach, teammate, and cheerleader. If you’re reading this post on my old blog (firebudgie.wordpress.com) then please update your links. I’ll be adding forwarding at a later time, but right now I have a lot of other design stuff to do.

If you are already here, welcome to the new hotness! I can’t wait to see where this will go!

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Initiation?

IHeartRunning

I think I was initiated into a secret running club without even knowing about it.

I went for my run yesterday because it was the first day in ages that it wasn’t 100-and-Firelands degrees two minutes after sunrise. Actually, it was pretty nice at 8 am or so. A little on the humid side, but it felt good. In comparison, I saw several people on walks/runs last night around 11:30 pm because it was FINALLY cool enough to do it. (Yes, my area is safe enough where people were out and about at that hour for exercise.)

My run ended up something like this: little over a half mile walk to warm up/get to the main trail, ran a full mile (YAY!), felt shin splints trying to develop, so I walked about 3/4 of a mile to just around the killer hill in the neighborhood beside the trail, turned around and walked the 3/4 mile back, ran ANOTHER full mile (YAY AGAIN!), then walked about 3/4 mile home.

So I’ve proven to myself that in a single ~4.5 mile workout, I can run one mile without stopping TWICE. Next is a matter of connecting the dots, with less of a break in between, and getting in that third mile of running. (Normally I would have jogged a bit during the 1.5 mile walk in between the two running miles, but again…shin splints.)

Which leads me back to the initial point of this post.

I want to say it was because the weather was finally nice for a run, but everyone on the trail was even MORE friendly than usual. I didn’t think this was possible! But EVERY person I walked past during my warm-up said hi or good morning or at least afforded a friendly smile. Usually I smile and go, “PUPPIES!” if they’re walking dogs (which usually earns me a smile in return) but I don’t think I’ve seen it from EVERYONE.

Then I got to the main trail. Stretched for a minute, then kicked it up to a run. That’s when it happened.

The first jogger coming toward me waved. He waved at me. I know it was at me, because he didn’t wave at the walker in front of me, and there was no one behind me. I smiled and waved back, had a surge of happy energy, and kept going.

Then it happened again with another runner.

And then another.

Walkers were still smiling and friendly, but they didn’t do the wave. It was odd.

And then when I was on my way back, jogging the second mile after my walking portion, I passed by the first jogger as he was heading back to *his* starting point. He waved again. Same wave, too.

It felt like I was being taught the secret handshake of runners.

I’ve said before that I’ve been feeling welcomed into this world that other runners live in, even though half of my workouts are not yet up to speed.

I’m having a hard time grasping this. I don’t think of myself as a runner yet. Yes, I run for 2 miles every time I go out on the trails, but I’m mostly walking still. So if only 45% of my workout is actually running, how am I a runner?

And yet, the challenge is to think positively on my goals. I WILL get there. I WILL run a straight 5K. I may not be able to do it now but I’m working on it. I’m running, therefore I’m a runner. I have a feeling that once the scale tips so more of my workout is spent running than it is walking, THAT’S when I’ll promote myself to “runner.”

But even still, there are other people—strangers—who are recognizing what I’m doing. And for that, they’re giving me the “Hi, One Of Us! Keep going!” wave.

Gotta say, it’s pretty damn cool!

June Wrap-up

MakeJulyYourBitch

June was a crazy month. Not crazy in a bad way, but still crazy.

The beginning of the month started pretty normal. Diet, exercise. Stayed on schedule with both.

Then came vacation. There was a little travel bloating (sodium, eating at restaurants, not drinking enough water, not getting to exercise like normal) but weight-wise not much changed. I managed to get in some exercise days DURING vacation, though. That felt pretty good!

After vacation was my birthday. For all the weight I didn’t gain on vacation, I seemed to put it on over the course of a few days around my birthday. It came back off just as quickly, but those two days at a peak weight were not fun on the ego.

On the plus side, those days DID aid my motivation.

I also started seriously running. While I can’t run for miles and miles without stopping, I was doing intervals that added up to at least 2 miles in each run. Usually that came out to about half of the session. I couldn’t do that before. I was especially proud of the day I ran a mile without stopping. I hadn’t been able to do that since high school!

The running seems to have sparked some more weight loss, too! I’ve noticed since I’ve been able to run regularly that my weight has also begun to drop at a slow, but regular pace. My previous workout schedule was mostly strength training with walking as my cardio. I’ve been doing slightly less intense strength right now and working on turning my walks to runs. I think I just needed to find the right balance. The scale says weight is dropping. I can tell my calves, especially, are looking thinner. The sad part is that they were always pretty decent. I wish more would melt off my inner thighs. The only DOWN side to running is that I’m discovering the horrors of chafing!

I have also been working on eating more this month. Yep, furnace was lit, and suddenly I’m burning more fat, too. Of course, I’m still focusing on healthy foods, but I’m trying to relax a bit. I wanted to stop mentally stressing myself out over food, but still be careful about it. Between vacation and forcing myself to relax, I think it’s helped a lot.

Since the day after my birthday, I’ve dropped 3 pounds. The majority of the month was a plateau, but it’s still the least I’ve weighed since I really started focusing on getting in shape again. (I’m also 5 pounds down from the post-birthday-bash peak…a lot of that was probably water weight and “food mass” in my stomach, but it’s still nice to lose that and more!)

So what’s in store for July?

First and foremost is that I have a job interview the second week of July. I won’t say that I’m guaranteed the position, but I think I have a really good chance. A lot of July will be planned around whether or not I get this position.

I still would like to join a gym. We’re having this heat wave this weekend, making it virtually impossible to run. I could go running, but I don’t want to risk my health. Originally I said I wanted to join a gym for access to heavier weights and machines. Now I ALSO want to be able to use the cardio equipment on days like this entire weekend when running outdoors is just unsafe. Joining a gym, and which one, is dependent on whether or not I get the job.

I have a goal of getting past this plateau and back into the 160’s again. I would like to hit 165 by the end of July. That’s about a pound a week. I won’t be disappointed if I’m lower than that! The shorts I bought just before my trip are already beginning to feel a bit loose. I would like them to be unwearable (too big) by the time autumn hits and I switch back to jeans. Although right now I’m practically living in workout clothes…I try to sleep in them so when I get up in the morning I have less preparation to do a workout. It’s harder to say no when all I really need to do is put on a sports bra, socks, and shoes!

But you know, even if I don’t reach my weight goal, I’m setting a schedule for myself to stick to. I made a calendar and everything! So even if my body doesn’t want to cooperate as far as the scale is concerned, I’m going to try to hit those non-scale victories and be able to point at what I’ve accomplished.

Tomorrow is picture day. I may or may not post them. But if things continue as they are right now, hopefully I’ll have even more to show at the end of the month!

A Fitness Bucket List

SetGoals

Saying “I want to lose X number of pounds” or that “I want to get fit” is nice and all, but sometimes you need a goal to work toward to really push it. Last year my goal was BlizzCon and Krystal’s wedding in a 1-2 punch at the end of October. While meeting my goals was kind of at the mercy of what my body chose to do (“LOL PLATEAU!”) having a looming deadline kept me pushing.

My birthday was two days ago, so I began writing out a new list of goals to focus on for the next year. I WANT to include BlizzCon 2013 in this list, but it hasn’t been announced yet so it’s hard to count it. That’s not to say there aren’t other things to work toward.

Right now my first goal is to join a gym. Guess what? Happy birthday to me! I’m researching the gyms in the area, and while I think I’ll end up joining the one closest to me, you never know if there will be one that offers something that I just can’t live without. For example, the nearest one is a standard gym with separate weight rooms, cardio rooms, and offers personal training. There’s also a Curves nearby, and there’s even a boxing gym which could be interesting. I think there may even be a Crossfit gym, too, but I don’t know its status. I really wanted a place that has a pool, but the one I know of is far enough away that I don’t think I would be compelled to go as often. There’s another standard gym not too far from here. They might offer something or have better rates that would make the extra couple miles of travel worth it.

A gym would be a great investment in my health and fitness. For the strength training plans I’ve been following, I’ve maxed out the amount of weight I have on my bar and dumbbells. It’s hard to continue improving when you can’t increase the weight. I would also love to go for a run right now, but we’re having a thunderstorm. I don’t mind running in the rain, but would rather not during a thunderstorm. In addition, our summers get very hot and humid, so it would be nice to be able to hop on a treadmill or get in some other cardio if the weather is potentially dangerous.

So the big question is finding a gym that I like, and ensuring that I’m committed to using it…which is why I’m setting up a goal list in the first place!

Not gonna lie, if there was a Pink Iron in my area, I’d join in a heartbeat.

PinkIronGym

Goal #2: Sign up for a 5K race. The closest gym to me sponsors a 5K in the fall, and they even posted the race map…which I have been walking most of already! I walked/jogged the entire course the other day, and it wasn’t too bad. The worst part is The Hill through one of the neighborhoods. I’ve always seen a running club jogging down the hill, and now I know it’s because it’s apparently a route that’s a measured 5K. So you know what I’m doing? I’m working my way up to running it, and going in a direction to run UP the hill. (I don’t know if the race goes up or down the hill, although the map has it marked “Uphill” but I figure this way I am putting a little extra work in.)

On the subject of running, I hit a non-scale victory the other day by running over a mile on a particular trail non-stop! I know that might seem silly to the people who are used to running several miles non-stop, but I don’t think I’ve run a full mile since college. I then walked a quarter mile, jogged a quarter mile, walked a half mile, jogged another quarter, walked The Hill, jogged a quarter mile, walked a half, jogged a half mile, and walked the final quarter mile home. I remember starting going on walks in March and being winded and tired after only walking 1.25 miles. Now my distance is nearing 5 miles in the same time it used to take me to do 3, and I’m running more. If I keep it up, (I’m loosely following the C25K plan) I am sure I can do a whole 5K in September!

Goal #3 is to continue the running and getting in shape. Why? Have you ever heard of the Krispy Kreme Challenge? According to the site, the course is now 5 miles…just a little over what I walk already. The challenge is to eat the dozen doughnuts before reaching the finish line. I love me some Krispy Kreme Doughuts. I grew up with them. I giggled in college when people first discovered these “new” doughnuts. The Challenge is more or less a local race for me. So why not? They don’t have the information up yet for 2013, but this year’s challenge was in February. I’d assume it would take place around the same time. And yes, I know how many calories are in a full box of Krispy Kremes. I would likely sign up as a casual runner and not attempt the full-dozen challenge. But exercising more means you can eat more, right?

ODNSGainWeightAfter1BadDayOfEating

I’m researching other races and events to join. There are several in the area, especially in the spring. If I have dates to look forward to, I can keep on track and not “Oopsie, where did the time go?” by the time BlizzCon rolls around again.

While I’m looking into running races, I don’t want to stop my strength training. And now we’re back to the “Why I want to join a gym.”

Whenever BlizzCon is to be held (3 of the 4 times I’ve gone it’s been in October, but it was in August one year), I want to be able to cosplay this year. I want to look like this:

ThoseAbs

Holy crap, that’s hot. And I KNOW I can do it!

Thing is, I want to get strong not JUST to look hot, but to be able to USE that strength as well. My final goal on my list?

Fall 2013. Tough Mudder.

I have ALWAYS loved obstacle courses and ropes courses. Sure, I have a terrible fear of heights, but this stuff I can do. I need to get into shape for it, but I know I can do it. Whenever I went to summer camp, I always first signed up for horseback riding, and then ropes or obstacle courses.

This is not a race, but a challenge. And there’s nothing I love more than a challenge to get me fired up. I know that in order to join, I need to be way more fit than I am now. So guess what I gotta do?

You guessed it…I need to stop dreaming and start DOING. Well, I’ve started, but now I have some goals to focus on.

BWForgetSkinny

What I Learned on Vacation

OMGBackAgain

I just spent the past 10 days away from home, away from my computer, away from my fitness equipment and stocked kitchen, and went on vacation to see family. You learn a lot about yourself when you are trying to get fit and healthy, and you learn even more when you are forced to improvise away from your “natural habitat” and live with people who are not used to your habits.

The first thing I learned is that my stomach does NOT like fast food and grease anymore. I spent more than one day in stomach discomfort (the worst time was when we went to see the Avengers movie and I REFUSED to get up to run to the bathroom), and while I was glad I brought the Pepto tablets, they turned my tongue brown for a few days. That’s the problem with vacation: you are often at the mercy of what is available to eat, and when it’s a case where you’re going to be socializing a lot and eating out, even trying to choose healthy choices doesn’t always help. My belly missed veggies and fiber, and hated having so much salt on EVERYTHING because that’s what “normal” people are used to. I didn’t get as many fruits and veggies as I would have liked. We got Chinese once and I only had the option of white rice, fried rice, or chow mein noodles…no brown rice. So you make choices, and I made mine based on whether or not I thought my stomach would get upset or not. Hey, I’ve had vacations where I laid awake at night with heartburn, and did NOT want to go through that again!

Speaking of food, the other issue I had was getting into a cycle of binging/starving, even though I tried not to. When you’re used to eating 5 small meals a day, switching to 2 or 3 meals proves difficult. For breakfast I usually eat 2 eggs and an egg worth of egg whites, with veggies, maybe a piece of fruit, and sometimes some nuts or cheese. So having a bowl of cereal or one egg and a piece of toast usually left me pretty hungry. When lunchtime hit, I would be STARVING. I would do my best to not wolf down my food (I wanted to give my body time to register that I had eaten) or take more than I could handle. There were a few meals where I know I ate more than I normally would have only because I didn’t eat as often as I was used to, and by that meal my body was CRAVING more fuel. I could feel the differences in my body temperature at night when I tried to sleep depending on what I had, how much, and when we last ate.

The next funny thing I learned? Usually when I DID get a large meal (like at a restaurant where everything is served as a “platter”) I could never finish it. I used to be able to finish that much food…AFTER having an appetizer and THEN having dessert! I kinda felt bad going to Chili’s and leaving *A* chicken crisper strip and most of my fries (Hey, I TRIED choosing from the healthy menu, but didn’t ALWAYS succeed. >.>), and tapped out early once when we got pizza. I brought home leftovers from the seafood restaurant. Blasphemy!

I know I also drank a lot of soda, and not enough water. Ugh, my body was CRAVING water the entire time. According to my weigh-in this morning I put on about a pound and a half over vacation, but I can pretty much guarantee that it’s water weight bloating from the salt and not drinking enough water. Give me a few days and it’ll come right off.

Because of the change of eating habits, my skin and hair felt icky most of the time. My skin was dry and flakey, and my face felt puffy. I felt like I always needed to exfoliate, but because I have sensitive skin I knew I couldn’t or I’d make things worse. My hair felt greasy quickly too. It was strange how quickly I recognized the changes in my body due to changes in nutrition. I was okay for the first few days, and then WHAM! It was like a sudden bout of PMS complete with the acne, bloating, and my sweet tooth being reactivated. Heck, for all I know it COULD be PMS, just made worse with the diet change.

Of course, I’m not just writing to complain about vacation completely derailing my efforts or anything negative like that. Overall, I think I managed to keep my calorie count around my normal level, even though it wasn’t as healthy.  I actually managed to get some exercise in! I found several bodyweight workouts for strength and cardio (squats, lunges, push-ups, crunches, etc. with cardio in the form of jumping jacks, running high-knee, butt-kicks, etc.) so I was able to stay active. It was tempting to not exercise because I was on vacation, but I told myself, “You never regret the workout you did, though you’ll probably regret the one you didn’t do.” Sure, we did a lot of walking, but not at the pace, time, or distance I’m used to, so I made sure to get some extra in.

And vacation had one other good effect: DESTRESSING! I’ve been the caretaker of everyone and everything for so long now that it felt good to finally get some time away from home to relax. I came home last night making plans for what I need to do, and for the first time in a long while I didn’t feel overwhelmed with “OMG THIS STUFF ALL NEEDS TO BE DONE YESTERDAY!” I feel more calm and focused.

The first “deadline” coming up is that my birthday is in 2 days. I’ve been debating a birthday present for myself: First I thought about getting new running shoes, but then I thought that maybe I should step it up a notch and treat myself to a gym membership and a few personal trainer sessions to check and correct my form. I’ve been wanting a gym membership for over a year now, and the only downside to the place near me is that they don’t have a pool. I really miss swimming laps (I used to swim competitively when I was young) and would love the option. But if that’s not to be, then I’ll make do. Another option is to get a Fitbit Tracker or similar gadget. I’m especially interested in the sleep tracking function.

No matter what I end up doing, I’m pretty excited about this year. It’s nice to know I’ve motivated some people and have some friends on the wagon with me. Vacation had me thinking about this year’s “Bucket List” of things I want to accomplish by the end of the year and by my next birthday. At the top of the list was getting into great shape again, complete with quantifiable goals. Lower weight and body fat are obvious, but the gym I’m thinking of joining has a 5K race in September I might sign up for. It’s easier to have goals to work toward, you know?

Vacation was a nice end to a previous life chapter. And now it’s time to move forward. I’m pretty excited to see what happens this year!

One month later…

OtherWaysToMeasureProgress

The title of this post is a little misleading, as it hasn’t exactly been one month. But it’s close enough. I took pictures on Thursday, May 3, 2012, and then started my diet and exercise schedule on Sunday, May 6, 2012. Or you could be even more technical and say I started on Monday, May 7, as Sunday is my “cheat” day. On May 6 I did a walk workout, but as far as food was concerned I ate like it was “Dimanche Gras.”

However, it’s been 4 straight weeks of workouts and trying to eat better. I still need to work on the eating better, but I have made clear progress even if the scale hasn’t been so kind.

I haven’t missed a workout, and have felt an increase in stamina and strength. I really need to get some new weights or plates because for many of my exercises I have maxed out the weight on my barbell/dumbbells, and those exercises have become too easy. As I mentioned in my last post, my walks are getting longer in distance, shorter in time, and I’m adding more periods of jogging into the walks. I’m going to shake up my workouts a bit soon, although I’m going to keep the same schedule. I don’t want my body to get into “muscle memory” territory…although it HAS been nice to have finally mastered some of the moves I was doing. Especially the ones involving the stability ball. Yeah, those moves know what they are. I showed you!

Not gonna lie, I’m bummed about the scale not showing my progress too. This coming month I’m going to focus more on diet since I pretty much have the exercise handled. I’m pretty sure my main issue is still not eating enough throughout the day. I also forget to track (oops!) and when I do I discover at the end of the day that I’m missing x-number of calories, so I tend to cram those in as a post-dinner meal. But that also affects my sleep, and that just doesn’t make me feel good. So goal for June: GO BACK TO TRACKING EVERYTHING EVERYDAY TO MAKE SURE I’M EATING RIGHT.

But overall, I’m proud of what I HAVE accomplished. I debated posting these pictures, and finally decided to go for it. I’m not entirely happy with them…it’s not where I expected to be. But the progress is obvious, which keeps me motivated to keep pushing forward. (Pics under the cut to save your eyes and stomachs. XD)

Read the rest of this entry

Proof of Improvement

TakeTheFirstStep

I’m still not quite up to running yet. I’m mostly doing walks with a little jogging mixed in, usually for the last 400 meters of a 4 mile walk. (And then I do approximately half a mile more for a cooldown walk.)

But there is improvement! I’m adding more distance with little change to the time that I’m out there, and my average pace is steadily going down.

Here are most of my walks/runs from the month of May, as pulled from the Nike Running logs:

5/6 2.87 mi 14’20″/mi — I actually did one long walk/run for this day, but accidentally stopped my iPod’s run counter in the middle of the run when I tried to adjust where it was on my shorts. So this is only half of 2 runs. It’s the faster half, of course. Most of it was jogging. And as you can see from the next few runs, I had major DOMS going on after this. =P

5/8 4.03 mi 16’52″/mi – I remember going slower because I was sore from the day before. Oops!

5/9 1.42 mi 16’37″/mi – This was just a short walk to walk off the DOMS.

5/10 4.16 mi 16’45″/mi — Still sore from DOMS. Just a walk.

5/15 4.18 mi 15’26″/mi — Feeling better. Faster walk. I believe I jogged the last 400m.

5/18 4.21 mi 16’33″/mi – Walk, I think I jogged the last 400m.

5/21 4.36 mi 15’54″/mi – Walk, and again, I jogged the last 400m. Notice my time was getting better.

5/22 4.56 mi 15’09″/mi – I remember this was ONLY a walk. There was an oncoming thunderstorm which pushed my speed, but I didn’t jog at all.

5/24 4.31 mi 15’55″/mi – Walk only. Halfway through (2+ miles away from home) my stomach decided to be upset. It slowed me down. The first half was about 15’/mi, second half was about 16’30”/mi.

5/29 4.61 mi 15’02″/mi — Walk with jogging the last 400m. I remember starting off slow and sluggish, but once I got moving I began to feel amazing.

5/31 4.63 mi 14’51″/mi — Walk with jogging most of the last mile (.97 mi-.5 mi, .33mi-end). The last .63 mi was a cooldown.

It’s funny to feel the improvement, but even nicer to see each run and how I did. I’m glad I’ve been tracking this online (on Nike’s website) because it helps show me there has been improvement.

Right now I’m still mostly walking and slowly working my way into running, but already I’m walking faster during my cooldowns than I used to walk at my top pace when I first got started.

My goal is to sign up for a 5k race next spring. I may be slowly working my way toward actually running that 5k, but I’m getting there!

Note to Self…From Myself

GirlsFuckingSweatDear Aili,

You know damn well that weight loss comes from causing a deficit of calories. You want to burn more than you eat. It’s simple math.

But never EVER forget again that there’s such a thing as creating TOO BIG of a deficit, which will impede your weight loss goals. You want your body to burn fat, not burn the muscle you’re working SO HARD to build. You know those big solid lumps in your arms? Those are your BICEPS and TRICEPS. You got complimented on them today. DON’T LOSE THEM BECAUSE YOUR BODY IS PANICKING THAT IT’S NOT GETTING THE CALORIES IT NEEDS! Seriously, don’t be afraid of eating a little more!

I know you don’t like to eat breakfast, but GUUUUURL you GOTTA do it! And you’ve found several recipes and ways to mix things up that you won’t get bored, remember? No one says you HAVE to eat “breakfast foods.” Eat one of those little steaks for breakfast. Cook up a chicken breast. Have some salmon. IT’S OKAY. Save the eggs for a salad if you want. Just make sure you are eating enough.

Also: Veggies. Veggies are yummy. Veggies are full of water. You feel cooled off when you eat your veggies. SO EAT THEM. (Doing great on the fruit, though! Awesome idea to start freezing grapes again!)

Speaking of water, good for you on keeping up with that. Just push it a little more. You’re almost back to 3 liters a day. Your skin is looking better. One to two more glasses. YOU CAN DO IT!

You’re kicking ass on the exercise. The entire reason I’m writing to you, Aili, is because you may be kicking a little TOO MUCH ass right now. The amount of ass you’re kicking is fine if you make sure you’re eating enough. So start tracking that food RELIGIOUSLY. Then go kick more ass! KICK ALL THE ASS!

So yeah, eat a little more, track it, drink more water, and keep kicking all the ass!

Your bestest friend,

-Yourself

PS – Don’t let the scale tell you that you suck. It’s a stubborn bastard and a total jerk. Now your clothes…they’re telling you that you’re awesome. Seriously, you look HOT in that tank top.

Structure

GetDietBackOnTrackFor any of you who have been following this blog, you might have noticed when I tend to fall off the wagon. The number 1 reason? Lack of structure.

If my exercise plan is great, but my diet plan is not, then I will let the exercise slip. Or the other way around. It’s almost inevitable. I need to have enough structure to keep me occupied, but enough flexibility to keep me from getting bored.

For example, when it comes to diet, I’ve done so many types that I’ve lost count. Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem come to mind, because they both had something I needed, but lacked the strength of the other plan. I liked the flexibility of Weight Watchers, but if I could convince myself that 16 of the day’s 20 points can be spent on getting a Chick-Fil-A sandwich and small fries, I’d do it. Justifying “bad habits” allowed me to slip. However, it had the accountability of the meetings and weigh-ins. Nutrisystem, on the other hand, had a structured meal plan to follow EVERY DAY that kept me on track. I lost more weight on Nutrisystem, but then I got bored.

With fitness, barring any injuries or real life issues, I had fewer problems as long as I could work my exercise into the day. I found it easier to set up a plan (workout 3 times a day for 4 to 6 weeks) and remind myself that it only adds up to 12 to 18 workouts.

But if my eating schedule wasn’t figured out (I feel better with about 5 small meals per day), then I was likely to let my exercise slip.

“Oh, I’ll get my workout in a half hour after I eat!” Yeah, but 3 hours later I still hadn’t eaten because I didn’t know what I wanted.

THIS HAS CHANGED!

It wasn’t easy, and I can share the details in another post if people are interested, but I sat down one weekend and put together a plan based on pretty much ALL THE RESEARCH I had put together from last year and previous diet attempts.

I knew I needed: Structured meals that ensured I got the required numbers (calories, nutrient macros, timing, etc.), but allowed for flexibility in foods and schedule. I needed to plan what to have pre- and post-workout to replenish my body’s energy stores as well as feed developing muscles. I needed to figure out how these meals would fit in with a workout schedule, so I had to plan what I was going to do as far as strength training and cardio. The day’s workout would determine my nutritional needs.

I wanted to work on the timing of which foods to eat to keep me sated throughout the day, but I wanted flexibility in those meals so I didn’t feel like I was eating the same boring “Grilled chicken and a salad” every day for lunch. This also had to keep in mind my personal tastes, like the fact that I’m not a fan of the soup-and-salad lunch. It also meant I had to plan meals and figure out which ones I had to cook, and figure out the most efficient way to work cooking into my daily schedule.

Working around the needs of a new roommate posed a challenge, too. I no longer wanted to be someone’s personal chef (even if it was my meal as well), but I had to make sure that if I made a meal for the both of us that it sated both of our needs and tastes. Thankfully, she’s very supportive of this effort.

Finally, I wanted to make sure that I had a “Cheat Day” worked in, so we could still enjoy going out from time to time and not feeling deprived of (most) foods we love. Likewise, I needed to work in days off from exercise to keep from burning out or causing injury.

You know what? Once I figured out some basic meal requirements and put the structure in place, suddenly planning meals themselves and even grocery shopping trips became SO MUCH EASIER! I have a regular shopping list, know how many days worth of salads or eggs to have on hand, how much of X type of meat to buy, and what kinds of snacks to get. I know that if I need 32 oz. of V8 for the week, and my 64 oz. bottle is mostly full, I don’t need to buy any more that week. I know I need Y number of oatmeal servings, and can easily see if I have enough or need more. There’s less grocery waste going on, as well as less time being spent at the grocery store. (As well as less temptation to buy things that I know are bad for me!)

When I don’t have to worry about figuring out dinner every night (“Tuesday will be stuffed peppers, Wednesday will be grilled salmon…”) I have more time to focus on my workout and other Real Life Things. No more wandering in the kitchen for an hour, trying to decide what to cook.

It feels good. I finally have a food plan that keeps me on track, and I have checked it against my daily nutritional requirements to make sure I was getting enough. I have an exercise plan that keeps me going. It’s making me stay motivated, yet streamlines my day so I can spend more time doing Other Things that I didn’t have time for before.

And I can even say it works! Last week I got back on track, losing nearly 2 pounds!

How I got started

For myself, this post is a reminder of what got me interested in getting healthy. For others, maybe it will serve as motivation.

To be quite honest, deciding to get healthy, lose weight, exercise, get fit, or whatever your goal both is and is not something you can just “wake up and do.” The main key is that it requires a change in mindset. That change is often gradual. Over a period of time you become more depressed about your favorite jeans feeling tighter. Or maybe you begin to notice those chin rolls in pictures. You know that to change the direction you’re going you are looking at a diet and exercise program in your future. But what’s one more piece of cake right now..?

You absolutely CAN wake up one morning and say, “I’M GOING TO CHANGE THIS!” It’ll be that morning where you pull yourself out of the self-defeating depression and instead are fed up with it. You get angry. You realize you respect yourself more than the way you’ve been treating yourself. You realize you deserve better and you can tell the rest of the world to go fuck itself because you know no one is going to hold your hand through it. YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for making a change.

I really think that was the biggest step in changing my life. You have to get so pissed off at where you are that you’ll do anything to change it. When you hate the way you look, the way you feel, the way your clothes fit, etc. you can either just accept it, or face it. Facing it is harder. But when you do, and you drop that first pound or do that first push-up, it feels so rewarding. Seriously, get angry. Don’t hate yourself for making bad choices, but hate the fact that you’ve made bad choices. And remember, those bad choices are in the past. This very minute you can make a good choice that will change your life forever!

The catch is coming up with a plan. This is where you can’t just “wake up and do” as easily as you’d like. You have to figure out how to eat again. You have to determine what kind of exercise program you can do that you will stick with. Sorry folks, both food and exercise are required. Eating better without exercising may help you lose weight, but you will likely lose water, some fat, and a lot of muscle tone. Who wants to be “skinny-fat”? (That look of a person who is thin but very soft because they also don’t have much muscle.) And yes, you can exercise without changing your eating habits, but you may likely undo all the hard work and effort by taking a trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet every day. In addition, your body will respond better to including certain foods and getting rid of others in your diet.

As you research this, chances are you may get overwhelmed. I have been there. I have given up and decided that it’s easier to not do anything and hope for the best.

Some people turn to specific programs, like Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem. I’ve been on both. They both work for the right people. If they are not for you, then you won’t stick with them, and all that money will be wasted.

So some people turn to coming up with their own plan. That’s what I did this time around.

FOOD!

Deciding what to eat was pretty easy. My main problem is that I usually don’t eat enough, and when I do, I go overboard. That starvation-binge-starvation cycle screwed up my metabolism. I could tell during the holidays on days when I ate WAY too much (like Thanksgiving…and I even held myself back pretty well!) that my metabolism kicked into high gear and my body temperature was higher than normal as my body was trying to burn it all off. I want to be able to do that every day without requiring a feast that really was too many calories.

So I decided that I wanted to “eat clean.” To me, that means eat foods you can recognize, avoid foods with chemicals and preservatives, and organic foods if possible. I shop around the outside of the store, mostly hitting the produce and meat/seafood departments. I’ve been experimenting with different veggies (who would have thought I could prepare eggplant!?), treat myself with fruit (mangoes, strawberries, and cantaloupe are my faves) instead of ice cream, and chose good cuts of meat, high-quality ground meat, and lots of fish and shellfish.

I know I am a carb addict, so I try to avoid pastas and breads. I will eat carbs in the form of fruit, veggies, and even rice and oats (steel-cut oatmeal is DELICIOUS), but going back to my original statement: I can’t identify pasta or bread according to its original form. Believe me, eating more fruits and veggies gives me the carbs I need and crave without me needing to launch myself into a huge bowl of cereal.

I also learned that eating healthy fats is required for a good diet. I’ve come to love avocados, usually cook in olive oil now, and keep nuts and olives on hand as snacks.

End result? I don’t follow a low-fat or low-carb diet, even though it may seem like it when you glance at my plate. My favorite dinner is a piece of fish (like salmon) or meat (yes, even red meat), and a HUGE spinach salad topped with fruit and avocado. With fruits like strawberries and mandarin oranges on my salad, I never needed any kind of dressing…which is good, because I don’t like salad dressing to begin with. Lunches were often something like my broiled tilapia, salad, and an apple. I always kept apples and almonds on hand for snacks. Breakfast was always the hardest, but usually involved eggs of some kind, a piece of fruit, and either veggies in my eggs or V-8. I’m still trying to find more breakfast options because I have never been a good breakfast eater, and that’s the #1 way to kick-start your metabolism in the morning.

With this in mind, I got started by going to the store and wandering the produce and meat sections, while avoiding the siren’s call of the pre-packaged foods sections. I’ve found recipes that involved cooking meat and fish in different ways, and have avoided all the “pasta bake” type recipes. I use ground meat in foods like chili and meatloaf, as well as for salmon and other “meat” muffins and burgers. It’s more satisfying to me to bite into a piece of meat than eat a spoonful of pasta melange. Heck, I’m not even that fond of soups and stews for that reason, although when you make your own you have more control over what goes into it. I will admit that becoming familiar with the slow cooker has been wonderful!

EXERCISE!

Deciding on an exercise plan is the hardest for me. I started with the 100/200/200 plan and got thoroughly hooked! I found it easier to make a challenge for myself: 6 weeks of a plan that happens on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday was do-able. It didn’t require any special equipment. I remember the feeling of finishing each week and saying I only had X number of workouts left. On the off-days, I’d hop on the stationary bike for a pre-determined amount of time, distance, or calories burned depending on how I was feeling that day.

If I didn’t have a bike, I’d probably go for walks. I might even jog an interval or two. We have a great trail system around here, and I really want to take advantage of it. Of course, there’s always that embarrassment of wondering what people will think of you when they see you. Honestly? I realized what I thought when I saw them jogging past me: “Good for them! I want to be like that some day!” And maybe it’s because I live in the South, but I’ve noticed that while they often mind their own business, usually they smile and say hi.

So the key for me was coming up with a plan, making sure that plan had a challenge to it, making sure it had a determined length (it’s easier to say I’ll stick to it for 6 weeks than doing something until…I can’t take it anymore), and sticking to it.

MOTIVATION!

Blogging about it also held me accountable, and it was helpful to tweet about it too. On days I didn’t feel up to doing a workout, I’d tweet for someone to motivate me. I’d get multiple responses of “You can do it!” as well as challenges (“I’m about to go on my run, so let’s see who works the hardest!”) and words of encouragement (“I can’t do my workout today for a valid reason and feel bad about it…don’t make yourself feel bad when you can do this!”). The next thing I knew, I was pumped up to do my workout.

And hey, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting to brag that you did 100-something pushups! Or saying that you FINALLY mastered a move that had been giving you trouble!

If you have a social network, take advantage of it!

In addition, hop onto Google. Do image searches for “fitspo” (a variation on “thinspo” which was a mixture of “thin” and “inspiration,” only this is emphasizing “fit”), or look up recipes. I love Allrecipes.com and Sparkrecipes.com to come up with tasty new things to cook.

Join a community, even online. I love SparkPeople.com since it’s free and an amazing resource for all the things I’ve talked about here. When you are feeling down about how you feel, there are plenty of people willing to lift you up again. And I love the personal challenge of collecting points and getting higher levels just by doing (and tracking) the healthy things you should be doing anyway.

Make your own goals, too. It’s great to have long-term goals of what you want when you reach your ultimate goal, but those can feel so out of reach when you get started. So set rewards for losing 2 pounds in a week, or every 5 pounds, or getting through 6 weeks of your exercise program. Heck, even a “I got through this week and am going to reward myself with a long soak in the tub” reward gives you something to look forward to.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, that pretty much sums up what I did. Changing my food habits was pretty easy, setting rewards kept me going, and the hardest part was deciding on an exercise program and the 100/200/200 was a great start that got me interested in doing more.

Hopefully this will help others as much as it helped me by serving as a reminder as we launch into 2012!