Some thoughts on weight: I think any of us can be healthy and happy, or very unhealthy and unhappy, at a surprising range of weights. Your "ideal" weight will be one that you can keep without any extreme behaviors. If you're exhausted, overtraining, and undereating to maintain a particular weight, that is not your happy weight and it's definitely not ideal. You can't expect your body or your mind to sustain a level of stress and pain indefinitely. A happy weight is actually happy. You feel good, you're not hungry all the time, not chronically sore, not living in fear of gaining weight if you make one wrong move. Maintaining your happy weight will require awareness, but not vigilance, not fear. You shouldn't be walking around feeling like you're always on the brink of disaster. You should have confidence in your ability to handle all of life's curveballs (vacations, injuries, illnesses, work drama, in-laws) without weight gain being a factor. In other words, your happy weight shouldn't be dependent on adhering to a strict schedule or only eating certain foods.
Much of this is related to mindset, because beliefs tend to produce certain outcomes. When I believed that could never weigh less than 135 pounds without months of extreme dieting and grueling training, that was true for me. It wasn't true because it's such an unrealistic weight but because my approach wasn't healthy or sustainable. Months of hard training while undereating always led to binges, rebellion, and regain. My behaviors and attitude were the problem, not anything about that particular weight. When I approached it in a totally different way--healthy habits, fun, flexibility, gradual changes--my weight easily settled lower than I ever thought possible. I'm working out less, enjoying my food more, and not doing anything nuts. There's no stress response to keeping this lower weight because there's no stress. Nothing hurts. There are no nagging injuries, no lingering fatigue, no chronic soreness. I'm well rested and I'm well fed.
My advice is to focus on health, happiness, and habits first. Don't fall into the trap of judging success or self-worth by a number. If you make it all about great, enjoyable daily habits, you might be surprised how easily you maintain a lower weight, or how fantastically awesome you look and feel at a slightly higher one.
Here are a couple of good posts on how social media messes with our happiness, body image, and self-esteem. The first one is by Jen Comas Keck:
Social Media: Friend or Foe to Our Self-Image? (BTW, my jaw dropped at that video of Neghar doing 15 chin-ups. I just keep watching it! She is such an AWESOME freak. :-)
The next one is a Forbes article:
This goes right along with the "comparison is the thief of joy" discussions. If you think you should look, act, eat, train, or live like someone else, and you fall short, that's going to be a bummer.
I'm fairly new new to Facebook. I just joined a couple of years ago. I found my family and friends and my online "tribe" (a lot of you!) but I also friended or followed all of my favorite trainers, models, magazines, blogs, and fitness professionals. Early on I didn't filter my feed at all. I didn't know you could hide people or choose to only see some of their updates. I found the whole thing more and more draining, yet I felt obligated to "keep up" and read everything. I was clicking on every research study, reading every blog post, and looking through every vacation album. I could feel my life force dimming. LOL Eventually, it started feel like an obligation. I was checking it several times a day so I didn't fall behind or miss anything, but I also found myself feeling kind of bad afterward, maybe a little resentful and tired. That's when it dawned on me that I could filter this crap! I didn't need to unfriend anybody, but I could choose not to see that "friend" who only promotes the latest thing they're selling, or the family member who can't resist sharing every annoying religious or political thought, or the coworker who posts 150 times per day about not much. I've narrowed my feed down to the people and pages I really enjoy. This has helped tremendously.
I don't post much myself. And I think part of that may be paralysis related to comparison. You know what? I don't travel. I don't have kids. I don't have an active social life or a political agenda. I watch a lot of television, and I workout, and I eat. You can only share so much of that. :-) I do a lot of lurking and liking. I love my stripped down feed now. I don't miss any Go Kaleo, MDA success stories, or photos of Pauline Nordin's cat, you know, the important stuff that makes me happy. I've removed anything that consistently bums me out.
I have seven thousand twitter followers but I only tweet once or twice a month now (sorry, followers). I still use twitter every day to know what's going on in the world, following local police and media via text. I admit that started as a work thing, so when there was breaking news and we were doing cut-ins, I'd know the latest. I use it more for that now and less for conversation. Though I still drop in for pure goofy once in awhile.
Pinterest, don't even get me started on Pinterest! It's my new love. It lights up exactly the same part of my brain as cookies. It's a happy, happy addiction and I can't wait to check it every day. I think maybe it's because Pinterest is pure fantasy and escapism. I can post those beautiful travel photos even if I've never been there, the amazing food porn even if I don't cook, and the stylish outfits even though I live in sweatpants. Pinterest makes me so very happy that...wait, I need to go check it now, I'll be back.
I saw an interesting post on Facebook today. Someone asked Molly Galbraith the question, if abs are made in the kitchen, what do I eat??
She makes some good points. I'd never considered the number of fat cells theory, or that fat cells once created can actually go away after a period of years. I think the cortisol factor is huge. The genetics thing is interesting. I'm definitely someone who carries weight in my lower body not my abs. I fit the description of seeing an outline of abs at mid-20 percent body fat and pretty decent definition at 17-18%. Other people walk around with naturally great legs, even at higher percentages. It really depends on how you're built. She also describes the danger of too much cardio. I've seen chronic cardio, especially in guys, produce a potbelly and stick arms effect.
Nutrition. It's common sense stuff: Eat real food when you're hungry. Don't hurt yourself. Don't starve. Find a way of eating that you can live with. I really LOVE that she says that instead of - everyone must eat 6 meals per day, totally clean diet, yadda, yadda, nonsense. I also think it's interesting that she seems to think you need less protein if you do intermittent fasting. Why is that I wonder? I've found it to be true for me. Actually, I've found consuming less protein in general to be true and right for me (compared to bodybuilding levels). Say I'm having 2 meals in a day. If I were to believe that 1g of protein per pound of body weight theory, am I really supposed to eat 65g of protein with EACH MEAL? Ha! No! I'll pass! When I went cold-turkey on nutrition software, I'd been consuming 45-90g of protein most days, or more like 15-30g per meal. My guideline is that I eat some quality protein with most meals. I don't make it any more complicated than that.
I've done the little experiments where I totally eliminate dairy (vegan experiment) and where I totally eliminate grains and gluten (paleo experiment). I noticed zero difference so I put them back. Dairy is actually a pretty substantial protein source for me, and grains do nothing bad unless I overeat them, and then I get fat. That's true for anything though!
Thoughts? Do you tend to carry weight in your abdomen or your lower body? Have you ever tried cutting out grains or dairy? What is your protein intake like? Calorie counters, did you have any thoughts on her multipliers? Or on eating too little?
I think I've had a small but sustainable deficit going for the last couple of years. I may still have that, but my food intake has definitely increased as I've gotten leaner. My four course lunch often involves a whole blender of green smoothie, then a steak (or a burger, or a chicken breast, or a couple of pork chops, or salmon), then the apple wedges and peanut butter extravaganza, and then a couple pieces of dark chocolate for dessert. I never go a day without chocolate.
This is a recent discussion on happyeaters.net, see more of the conversation here.
I just read a couple of good posts on the stages of overtraining:
I wish I'd understood more about it in my younger, dumber days. I definitely went down that road. Nagging injuries, lingering colds, constant fatigue, lack of enthusiasm, decreasing performance. I went years exercising 2-3 hours per day 6-7 days per week. I never fully recovered from my training sessions. I just kept breaking it down. I remember taking painkillers so I could run on the treadmill with an injured disk in my back. I trained with broken bones. When I had vertigo, I did cardio on a recumbent bike with a trash can next to it. That way if I had an epic room swoop, I didn't have far to fall to the floor, and if I had to throw up, the trash can was right there. Staying home did not occur to me!! I remember having a biopsy with stitches and the doctor telling me not to train for 10 days. I was at the gym the next morning, throwing punches with the stitched up shoulder. When I was in a hip to ankle leg brace and on crutches, I still went to martial arts.
I did the sugar burning thing he talks about in part 2 where I was sucking down more and more carbs for "energy" but I wasn't feeling energized. I was gaining weight in spite of the hard training and I would fall asleep sitting up. To counter that, my stimulant intake went through the roof. At the height of my diet soda madness I was drinking 2 liters + 4 cans of Diet Mountain Dew per day, every day.
Now I'm training a teeny fraction of what I used to and I'm in much better shape. Nothing hurts. I rarely get sick. I have plenty of energy. Food is easy. I still love caffeine but I use it appropriately--2 glasses of iced tea in the afternoon. I enjoy my workouts. The dread and struggle is gone.
Tell me about overtraining. Have you experienced it? What drove it? Have you experienced the flip side of getting better results with less training? How did overtraining affect your food intake and weight? If you stopped, how/why did you stop? Have you experienced lingering health consequences?This is a thread from my Happy Eaters site. You can see more of the conversation .
I had a jeans triumph. These are THAT pair of jeans, you know, the comically small pair you bought 10 years ago and fit into once? I'm pretty sure everybody has those. I should have thrown them away a long time ago but I kept them even when I could barely pull them up past my knees, because I never gave up hope that one day...LOL
Today was the day! And I got the idea to try them on after I had eaten my whole Palermo's Primo Thin Margherita pizza and half a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy. :-) :-) I am a very happy eater today!
I saw this on Pinterest:
And then I fell asleep on the couch and dreamed of carrot cake. The photo must have made an impression because I dreamed I was eating that carrot cake, a big honkin' rich piece with way too much frosting. I didn't mean to eat it. In my dream I was eating it between meals with my hands and I felt guilty. I wasn't supposed to have it. I woke up startled. Did I really eat all of that?! No! Whew!
Once I woke up enough to be coherent, there was no more guilt for my dream eating. I knew I needed the biggest, richest piece of carrot cake I could get my hands on, so I went to The Cheesecake Factory, well, I went to see Magic Mike first, but then I went to The Cheesecake Factory. It was kind of a decadent day all the way around. LOL I ordered a whole one pound 1,500 calorie hunk of awesome carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for myself. I couldn't eat it all, not even close, not even half, but I had SO MUCH FUN. :-) :-) :-)
If I get a genuine outrageous craving for something, I just go for it. I don't avoid it, eat around it, try to find a substitution, I eat exactly what I want. I honestly think that I eat less overall because of this. I used to be the queen of eating around a craving, sometimes for days. Thousands of pointless calories later I'd still eat what I wanted in the first place.
I bought The New Rules of Lifting for Life yesterday. I haven't been keeping up with the series. I don't know why. Lou Schuler is hilarious, and Alwyn Cosgrove writes brutally effective workouts. Perhaps they're a little too brutally effective! I may still have some post-traumatic stress from Afterburn. Here's what caught my attention about this book, Lou and Alwyn realized they could no longer do their own programs, or any programs, exactly as written. They were having to modify them because Lou is a million years old now and Alwyn has survived stage 4 cancer a couple of times. With that in mind, they have written a book for those of us who, although we may have been elite gym warriors at one time, are now old and crunchy. If you're a beginner, if you're overweight, if you're working around injuries or limitations, this is the New Rules book for you.
Instead of giving a generic program for everybody, it's what Alwyn calls a Chinese Menu system. You pick something from every column, only instead of it being a soup, a meat, two vegetables, a sauce, and rice or noodles, it's movement prep, core training, power training, strength training (a squat, a hinge, a lunge, a 1-leg stance, a push, a pull, or a combo), metabolic training, and recovery. You get to pick the exercise that matches your fitness level and doesn't aggravate your injuries. Or, if you're too lazy to do that, there is a sample protocol for beginner and advanced lifters with all of the exercises already filled in for you. There are three phases: Transform, Develop, and Maximize that will each be 4-6 weeks in length depending on how many days per week you do the workouts (2-3x per week is recommended).
These workouts either require a gym membership, or they require you being pretty well setup at home. You need a barbell, and if you don't have a cable pulley system, you need an assortment of tubing and something sturdy to attach it too. If you have a pull-up bar, a TRX, or a kettlebell, you'll be using it. You might also need some tall boxes or steps, a bench, a stability ball, a foam roller, and a mat.
Am I going to do this? I haven't decided yet. It's conceivable that I could start it when I finish Lauren Brooks' program. That gives me like 8 weeks to convince myself that Alwyn Cosgrove is not trying to kill me. He's trying to help me. :-) In any case, it's a fine and entertaining read that made me laugh out loud numerous times and gave me some great new exercises and workout options. The chapters and rules have names like: Middle Rage, Hurt's No Good, Flabby Road, and You are not a rural Okinawan.
I accidentally bought an intuitive eating book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat by Michelle May, MD. I was tricked because she calls it "instinctive" eating, plus she made so much sense in the first chapter. She describes the patterns people fall into as Instinctive Eating, Overeating, and Restrictive Eating. Her explanations were so right on that I bought it immediately, but a few chapters later I was doing "mind-body check-ins" and rating my hunger on a scale. Blaaarf!!!
Chapter 4, What Am I Really Hungry For is a whole thing on head hunger and triggers. She describes each type of hunger and trigger and gives a strategy for dealing with each one. This would have been awesome except it's all that woo-woo emotional floofery that Brain Over Binge cut straight through for me. Analyzing feelings and motivations, giving them more weight, and trying to resolve each issue individually only amplified the problems for me. Mentally stepping back from ALL my thoughts and urges and not taking any of them seriously worked like a charm. That urge to eat a dozen cookies doesn't have anything to do with my childhood, my work schedule, or my lack of bubble baths. It's just brain goo, an old habit that has worn a rut through my synapses because I'd cluelessly repeated the behavior so many times.
By the time I got to the nutrition chapters where she was promoting cutting edge 1980s advice on "hearthealthywholegrains" and "arterycloggingsaturatedfat," I was done. Still, I tend to learn a few things even from books that I don't totally agree with. One clever tool she mentioned was creating a "speed bump" on your plate by physically dividing the food. When you get to the speed bump, you pause and check in. Are you still hungry? Do you really want the rest of that? Could you stop now? It's a clever idea. I do something similar in restaurants when I'm dealing with a ridiculous portion. Sometimes I'll just divide it up with my fork before I start eating. Then I know where my food stops and my husband's carryout box starts.
She does have some gems of wisdom. One of the most important things she talks about is feeling guilty versus feeling regretful. Instinctive eaters sometimes eat too much and regret it. Like, "Wow, I wish I hadn't done that. I'll handle it differently next time." But they don't feel GUILTY, as in, "I'm a bad person, fat pig, weak-willed, hopeless disappointment who will never get this." If you regret something, you learn from it and move on. If you feel guilty, those loaded emotions only fuel the cycle of overeating and restrictive eating.
I do like the term "instinctive eater." It seems more logical and natural than "intuitive eater" which immediately strikes me as being dingbat-related. She describes the various eating cycles like this:
Instinctive Eating Cycle
Why do I eat? - Hunger
When do I eat? - When I'm hungry
What? - Whatever I want
How? - Intentionally
How much? - Enough to satisfy hunger
Where? - Living my life
Why? - Triggers
When? - External or emotional cues
What? - Tempting or comfort foods
How? - Mindlessly, quickly, or secretly
How much? - Until food is gone or I'm uncomfortable
Where? - Excess fuel is stored
Restrictive Eating Cycle
Why? - Rules
When? - According to the rules
What? - "Good" or allowed foods
How? - Rigidly
How much? - Allowed amount
Where? - Energy is spent on diet and exercise
So, that's brilliant, right? I loved those descriptions! At times I've been all of them. Currently I'm an instinctive eater with a touch of restrictive. I keep a pretty tight lid on the "how much" part in order to stay as lean as I like. The overeating cycle is out of the picture now, thankfully.
There is some great information in this book even though not all of it clicked with me. I thought I'd mention it since many of us read pretty much everything on this topic. If you're thinking about it, note that the Kindle edition is like $11 cheaper than the hard copy.
I just finished a good book, The Swing by Tracy Reifkind. I was going to say a good kettlebell book but it's so much more than that. Tracy Reifkind had been overweight her whole life. She weighed 250 pounds the first time she picked up a kettlebell at age 41. Through a change in mindset, an overhaul of her eating, and dedication to swinging a kettlebell several days per week, she lost 120 pounds and became an RKC kettlebell instructor. Her transformation is one of the most inspiring things I've read in years. Let me give you a few quotes from Tracy:
"I came to the conclusion that truly healthy and fit people don't have to think about how to become healthy and fit, it's who they are--it's not a chore, a punishment, or even a choice. Forget second nature; for them, it is first nature. The question for me then became: how do you make something first nature?"
"When you are in the zone, you eat right and you do your workouts as if they have always been a part of your life and they will never not be a part of your life. It's what you do, it's who you are, and it officially becomes your lifestyle--it changes from something you're doing into something you are."
"You know, there was a time shortly after I started my diet that I had the thought of never, ever being able to go back to the way I used to eat. I thought about never again eating my everyday lunch of three cheeseburgers and six chocolate chip cookies, and I felt sad for a few moments. I felt like I had just been sentenced to a lifetime of no fun in punishment for my decades of bad behavior. The sadness passed once I realized how ridiculous it was to mourn the passing of an extremely destructive habit."
It was fascinating to read about how her perception of herself and food changed. This isn't your typical "here is the history of kettlebells and here are some exercises" book. It's about her inner transformation. She gives details, of course. She shares her workouts. She gives incredibly thorough instruction about how to swing a kettlebell. She shares the food plan that turned her into a really buff chick, which is, surprise, real food, portion control, nothing off limits, and a little intermittent fasting. I was excited to read that like me, she eats basically the same meals most of the week. She also includes one high calorie day and one low one. She talks about the importance of preparing your own food and includes lots of recipes and how-tos.
One interesting part of the book talks about how she accidentally regained 20 pounds by eating her normal healthy food but getting loose with the portions. She went back to eating her basic meals in set portions 4 days per week and lost 10 pounds really quickly. Then she put her high calorie day back and lost another 3. The other 7 she considers part of an acceptable range. She doesn't try to live at her lightest weight ever and understands that she's not going to keep losing scale weight as she continues to get stronger. It was fascinating to read her story. She sounds like one of us!
It slightly threw me that she suggests women eat 1200 calories per day for fat loss. That was her target with the understanding that most days she would go over it. She says that the closer she stuck to that goal, the faster her fat loss. There are a couple of considerations. For example, her only exercise was going for walks and swinging a kettlebell for 20 minutes 2-3 times per week. She wasn't training for a marathon or going to crossfit or anything, so you have to keep that in mind when looking at her suggested intake. Also, she had a high-calorie day every week so she didn't burn out. She doesn't seem to have run into any of the metabolic slowdowns or issues from a continually low calorie intake. And finally, at 250, she had a lot of stored energy to work with. It wasn't like an obsessive 110 pound overexerciser eating in the 1200 range with no breaks.
I would encourage anyone who reads this to do the standard skwigg move of incorporating any ideas that really resonate with you and disregarding anything that makes you tremble and grind your teeth. There is plenty that resonates here! I couldn't get to my kettlebells fast enough after I finished this book.
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