#40milesinjuly: What I Learned

I’m really proud that I completed my goal of walking or running 40 miles in July! When I was inspired to try this challenge last month, I wondered if I’d have the commitment. If I’d make up excuses as to why I couldn’t get it done. But thankfully, though I did procrastinate a bit in the beginning, I saw it through!

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I kept track of my miles using my Nike+ app, which made it simple to know how far I walked/ran each day and how fast I did so. Now that, unfortunately, was humbling. When I first started running a few years ago, I was faster than I am now. I also weighed a bit less so … probably goes hand-in-hand. But even though my times are a mix of walking and running, I’m still not happy with 16-ish-minute miles. I’d like to work on getting faster, that’s for sure!

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Here’s what I learned during my month of 40 miles:

1. Having a friend helps. Now I promise I won’t inundate my Instagram feed with each and every mile ran/walked again, but I will say that putting that out there, and getting the encouragement from friends/family in return, was really great! And so was meeting friends to walk or run together. Whether it was being accountable or simply having the support, it definitely helped.

Thanks to Mandy, Jessica and Javacia for walking with me!

Thanks to Mandy, Jessica and Javacia for walking with me!

2. Consistency feels good. Not only did I learn that I didn’t mind getting up at 5:30 a.m. to cover my miles, but I also don’t mind walking or running every day. I covered the 40 miles in 16 days, which means I worked out a little more than 50% of the 31 days of July. That’s a lot more consistent than my workouts have been as of late, but it never felt like a huge burden.

3. It was (is!) OK to walk. I have had this voice in my head ever since I started running that says, “You have to run. Walking isn’t good enough.” And after this month, I think I finally told that voice to shut up. Here’s the thing, I was still running probably three days a week. So if I chose to walk another one or two days that week, it’s OK. Walking is good exercise. There’s no need to feel bad about doing it!

4. I didn’t lose any weight … and that’s OK. At first I was a little disappointed in this. However, I felt so good, so healthy, from the walking and running, that I just started not to care about what the scale said and started to trust more in how I felt. I do know, that for me at least, my diet is probably 95% of the factor in me losing weight or not. But, as I’ve said before, the physical activity leads me to make better eating choices most of the time. Only once or twice this month did I say, “I just ran three miles, so I’m going to have a huge bowl of ice cream!” I can handle once or twice. And I can handle feeling healthier overall, even if the scale doesn’t move downward.

5. I love “me time.” I’m an extrovert, and I love being around people. But having this little bit of time, on a regular basis, to check in with myself has been wonderful. I can listen to whatever music I’m in the mood for (lately it’s been the Pitbull station on Pandora!), I can go over to-do lists or think through blog posts I want to write. Or, I can try to just empty my mind altogether and enjoy the scenery and (thankfully!) the cooler weather we’ve had lately. I think everyone needs to find time to walk/run/yoga/meditate/whatever just to have a little “me time,” even if it’s just 5 minutes!

What’s up next? Well, I’ll write a little more about this in another post but as a jump-start, I have enjoyed this past month so much that I want to continue challenging myself. So get ready for #50milesinaugust! Yay!

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Reality TV vs. The Real World

Last night I watched all of 20 minutes of “Extreme Weight Loss” and I immediately had to turn the channel to something much less infuriating (thanks, “You’ve Got Mail”) because I really wanted to throw my water bottle through the TV.

The lady on the show, Cassie, started out her time with the trainers at 346. As she stepped on the scale to weigh in after 90 days, one of her trainers said he had set a goal for her to lose 100 pounds in that time period. 100 pounds. In case you’re not aware, that’s 30+ pounds a month. That’s 7+ pounds a week. Really?

And then, the poor woman actually felt bad, visibly upset, that she had “only” lost 77 pounds. Let me repeat that: She lost 77 pounds in 3 months and felt it wasn’t good enough.

This is why I can’t watch shows like this anymore. Listen, for all those people out there who have been on the “Biggest Loser” or some such show, and kept the weight off after returning to normal life, good for you! I don’t begrudge your success in any way.

But what shows like this do is make people, like myself, who can’t afford to take off work for months at a time to lose weight on TV, feel like a failure. Somehow we are meant to lose weight at ridiculous rates, just like they do on TV. Because if they can do it, why can’t we?

I’ll tell you why: I have a job. And a family. And friends and a house and I cook my own meals and I make myself work out. There’s no one yelling at me to get off the couch or making me do 10 more burpees.

I know anyone with half a brain knows that that type of weight loss is unattainable in the real world. And most of us know that a weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week is what’s recommended by doctors for healthy, sustainable weight loss.

But these shows do a disservice. They feed into some mentalities out there that say, “See? Losing weight isn’t that hard. If she can do it, you can, too.”

So I thank God for people like my doctor who told me recently that he’s struggled with his weight his whole life and while he knows losing 30 pounds would help a lot, it’s just not that easy for him.

I nearly jumped out of my seat and hugged him when he said that. Because try as I might to be healthier, to exercise more and watch what I eat, I may never have a dramatic “Extreme Weight Loss.”

And I’m actually OK with that. Because I live in the real world. And in the real world, losing 77 pounds in 90 days would be a miracle. In my world, losing 7 pounds in a month, rather than a week, would be a dream come true.

We live in the real world, people. So stop letting so-called “reality shows” make us feel any kind of way at all!

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A Love Letter to 5:30 a.m.

I woke up with you yesterday and while I may have groaned and dreaded your arrival, I was actually happy to see you. As I got out of bed and pulled on my Lycra pants and tied my sneakers, I took a deep breath and shook the sleepiness off, preparing for the work we were about to do.

A quick drink of water and slice of bread later, and we were out the door. That first step outside with you is always interesting. What will we find? Heat and suffocating humidity? Slightly cool and thick with fog is how we were greeted yesterday. We took off in a different direction, changing up our usual routine to keep us fresh, motivated.

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As my legs warmed up and I started to run, I realized that this is why I deal with you as often as I can, 5:30 a.m. For this feeling of strength. For starting my day in the healthiest way that I can. For the time I get to breathe, to go over my to-do list and think, “This is OK. I can handle this. I can handle this life.”

That time alone with you is something I’ve come to treasure. As much as your piercing alarm can make me want to punch someone, I know you’re only looking out for me. I know you want what’s best — and that’s to focus on myself for that time before the world fully wakes up. You give me that time to myself to think through what’s bothering me, to laugh and remember good times, to be grateful for all I have.

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So I want to thank you, 5:30 a.m., for helping me become a healthier person. For letting me run/walk and improve my fitness, while working through the clutter in my mind. While I may fight you at times, I promise to never take you granted.

You’re mine, 5:30 a.m. And I’m yours.

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Ups And Downs

The past week or two has been a roller coaster, eating- and exercise-wise.

During the weekdays, I’m generally pretty good with my meals. Take tonight, for instance. I made a quick barbecue chicken, which I ate on one slider bun (100 calories) with a side of sweet potato fries (baked) and broccoli (no butter!). I had a portion-controlled dessert and lots of water.

Dinner Wednesday night

Dinner Wednesday night

Of course yesterday, during a happy hour for my company, I enjoyed a three fried raviolis, a quesadilla wedge, a couple nacho chips … generally, food that didn’t keep me full for long and was high in calories/fat. Now, once in a while, I can let this slide. My problem is that the once-a-week treat has become twice-a-week … or three-times-a-week …

While I really can keep myself motivated to say no or control my portions some times, other times all that flies out the window. It’s almost like I’m in defiance — I’m annoyed that I can’t just eat what I want and not gain weight. I get stubborn, wanting to prove that I can eat things in moderation and still lose weight … when maybe I really need to be more strict with myself.

The same goes with exercise. Last week I ran/walked three or four days, while this week I’ve only gone out twice so far (Tues. and today).

Clearly my major issue right now is consistency. If I could keep a steady pace (pun intended) going with my workouts, I would probably see more progress not only in my weight loss, but also in being able to run faster and farther. If I could hold true to the 90-10 rule — eat well 90% of the time with a treat 10% of the time — I could lose weight and not gain it all back with my one (or two) too many treats.

So this is what I’m struggling with right now: consistency. I firmly believe that I will see the number on the scale go down if I can just be more faithful to the things I know will work.

How do you stay on track when you’re tempted to veer off path? What are some tricks you’ve learned to see continuous progress in your weight loss or maintenance?

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Sweet Tooth Calling

It never fails. Just after finishing a meal, no matter how full I may be, I start to crave something sweet. All manner of goodies run through my head: cookies (chocolate chip or peanut butter), ice cream, candy, cupcakes. You name it, I want it.

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I tend to indulge in what I would call big treats, like cake, on special occasions only, like having dessert after dinner once in a while if I’m at a restaurant. After lunch during the week, I can usually satisfy the craving with one or two Dove chocolate squares. But sometimes sweets get the better of me and if someone brings donuts to the office, or if the Dreamcakes cupcake truck is nearby, I may have a hard time resisting.

The real culprit, though, is after dinner and my craving often gets me into trouble. This is when I want a dish of ice cream. And I don’t mean a measured 1/2 cup, as is a single serving. No I want a bowl. A big bowl. And I want it to be rich, usually chocolate, with creamy fudge or crunchy candy.

So what’s a girl who’s trying to lose weight and watch her portions to do?

Well, individual portions help. Skinny Cow or Weight Watcher treats have come to my rescue many a time. But I know these aren’t always the healthiest option … nor are they very friendly on my wallet.

I recently wrote an article about healthy, cold desserts that are perfect for summer. You can check them out on HellaWella.com here.

This week I’m going to make a concerted effort to make yogurt parfaits with frozen raspberries and maybe a few chocolate chips. Or my old standby — Cool Whip between two chocolate graham cracker squares, frozen — instant low-calorie ice cream sandwich!

When does your sweet tooth most often attack? How do you stave off cravings while still enjoying a little treat?

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Finding Healthy Inspiration

I find it pretty interesting what people will repin or like on Pinterest. If I pin a photo of a cute midi skirt, it might get a repin or two. But surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, one of my most repinned items is this:

Plus-size model Tara Lynn

photo by Bob Wolfenson

This photo of plus-size model Tara Lynn has earned 364 repins and 113 likes. When I originally posted this pin, I wrote this comment underneath: “She looks like a healthy woman to me. THAT’S what matters!” And someone repinned: “I am trying to lose weight and this is the goal weight I could live with. I think she looks just right.”

Me too!

I think what resonates with so many women is that Tara looks real. She looks sexy, curvy … attainable. Sometimes we see photos of celebrities or models and we think, “I wish I could look like that.” But so often the bodies we’re wishing for are a product of crazy good genes, or hours of exercise a day, or a combination of personal training + cardio + personal chef + lighting + strategically placed makeup. Not to mention PhotoShop!

This photo, however, seems actually possible. It feels like with some exercise and healthy eating, with a great piece of lingerie and a little hair tossle, we could achieve this level of hot. And it is so much easier to look at Tara and say, “that’s sexy, and actually healthy looking,” as opposed to so many women who may be the technical definition of healthy but just look too … too thin, or too chiseled or too tan, even!

There’s no point in pinning items that will make you feel bad about yourself. The so-called #thinspiration that was so prevalent on Pinterest still exists. But it’s because you (I/we) pin it. If we start pinning real, healthy-looking women as our inspiration, our outlook on what is sexy, what is beautiful, will become more realistic and more healthy for our own self-esteem.

I’m grateful that so many other women out there repinned this photo because it shows that so many of us want to aspire to a healthy body, one that’s curvy and sexy. It shows we want to be inspired by attainable bodies — ones that are actually possible for us.

Here are a few more pins that other women have repinned/liked that follow along this line of thinking. So remember, next time you get to pinning, search for inspiration that’s real!

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The Importance Of Being Honest

Being honest with others in one thing. Being honest with yourself, well, that seems to be even harder.

I’ve been reading a few other blogs lately and it seems I’m not the only “weight-loss blogger” out there who is having a hard time not just losing weight, but also struggling with the real purpose of it all. I put the term “weight-loss blogger” in quote marks because a lot of the problem for myself, and it seems for others, is that we feel we can’t call ourselves this if we’re not actually losing weight.

If I am honest with myself, I don’t think this blog is about losing weight at all. And I don’t think my journey is about that either. I think it’s more about finding a way to be comfortable with myself. And yes, for me, that means losing some weight because I’m not happy with myself at my present weight. But I don’t know if that means I will ever be one of those “success stories” that you see on the cover of People magazine. And if I’m honest, I’m OK with that.

The more and more I do to try and be an overall healthier person — and to me that means eating healthier and more consciously, exercising regularly, and learning to accept myself inside and out — the more I realize that the actual numbers, the actual concrete statistics about me, don’t really mean anything. I’m 5’7″. I weight approximately 250 (I haven’t been on the scale in a couple of weeks!). I wear a size 20-22. My feet are a size 10.

But what do those numbers mean? Do they reflect that I’ve stayed within my calorie limit for the past 7 days, with the exception of one day? Do they show the sweat after covering 3 miles Monday and this morning, plus spinning last night? Do they display the smile I have when I feel good in my clothes or confident walking down the hallway?

No. Those numbers don’t capture all that. They don’t show the whole picture. And, again, if I’m honest with myself, it’s that whole picture that I’m most concerned with.

Now, I won’t deny that it would feel great to strut my stuff in a body-conscious red dress, or to run a half-marathon faster. There are certain feelings that fitness and health produce, and I do want to continue to work toward those goals.

But they don’t define me.

Let me repeat that: The numbers, the weight, the pace of my runs — they don’t define me.

And they don’t define you. If you are taking care of yourself, and you feel good about yourself, then you are a success story. Period.

Striving to feel like a success story is what this journey is all about for me. But it’s my story — it’s my words and chapters that make up my book. It’s not for others to say how that book should be filled.

Posted in Acceptance, Body Image, Confidence, exercise, Fitness, Health, Weight-loss | 4 Comments