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Skwigg Blog
Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Now I remember why I don't do any type of fitness or weight loss "challenge" during the holidays. There is food everywhere! Catering at work, trays of cookies, restaurant meals, a bazillion freaking pies. Delicious treats abound. Meanwhile I'm drinking blended spinach and eating birdseed. Not that I'm complaining.

No, ok, I'm complaining! I want a donut! ::crying::

Why do I do this to myself? Why did I learn nothing the first eight times I dieted through the holidays, stressed myself out, alienated everyone around me, lost my mind, and then binged in January? I should be able to spot the pattern by now.

I'm still eating mainly monkey food and I still really enjoy it. It's just that... I want frosting. Do monkeys eat frosting? I've seen them wear clothes and smoke cigarettes. Surely they would enjoy a piece of cake. Or pie! Banana cream pie!! What if I put a pie in the blender with spinach? Then could I have it?

Yes, welcome to my brain. It's short-circuiting. :-D

I think I need to step away from the 30-day challenge mindset and into a balanced long term approach. Otherwise, I'm going to be eating whole gingerbread neighborhoods.

I'm actually doing really well if I would quit freaking out. I love the KettleBelle Body workouts. I intend to keep doing them into the spring. There are months of them and they're much more challenging than anything I would come up with on my own. I'm getting stronger and I look lean. I just need to take some of the pressure off so I don't bug out. 

How is everybody else doing? Are you cutting yourself some slack through the holidays or are you hitting it hard right now? Are you feeling strong or totally losing it? How about family and friends? Are they being supportive or are they your undoing? Tell me what's up. Let it all out. LOL

Posted by skwigg at 10:27 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 2 December 2008 10:40 AM CST
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Does Plant-Based Equal Flab-Based?

I've been talking to fitness people who are interested in eating a more plant-based diet but they're afraid they'll lose muscle and turn to squish if they don't eat cottage cheese, chicken and whey protein every 2 hours. Everyone knows that you'll go into starvation mode / disintegrate / burst into flames / die instantly if you don't eat the bodybuilder-recommended six meals and 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Or WILL you? ;-)

I talked to someone who is eating less protein and more whole grains and plant foods. She says, "I'm worried that I might be losing leanness, but I can't tell if it's water from the carbs or if I'm eating more." She asks if I noticed a difference in my body composition from consuming a higher percentage of carbs, or if I hit the upper end of my weight range purely from eating more calories.

I think carbs get a bad rap because if you go from a low or moderate carb diet to a higher carb diet, you're going to gain weight in the form of glycogen (stored carbohydrate in your muscles and liver) and water. Each gram of glycogen is packed with 2 grams of water or something like that. So people lose a ton of "weight" on squeaky clean low carb diets but it's not fat. They deplete themselves. Then they eat a potato and gain 4 pounds and they're like, "OMG, potatoes are SO EVIL!" Well, no...

Not everyone is able to handle a big influx of calorie-dense carbs like bread and pasta. Maybe it's a wheat gluten thing, metabolism, activity level, or genetics. Skinny ectomorph types and muscley mesomorph types seem to do fine with plenty of healthy carbs. Softer, less active body types may get better results by backing off on starchy carbs or narrowing the window to post-workout or early in the day.

All of that said, I personally gained fat because I let my Kit-Kat intake outpace my activity level. :-) Nothing too mysterious. I'm not training three hours per day anymore and I don't have the same leeway with junk food that I used to have. Sometimes that slips my mind until the treats start showing up on my abs.

Personally, I'm happier and I feel better when my carb intake is higher. Everything is right with the world when I can have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Although, when your carb intake is higher, you have to pay MUCH more attention to portions. It's hard to overeat broccoli. It's really shockingly easy to overeat granola, rice, or pasta.

I'm going to put this next sentence in bold because it's the key to the whole deal. When you're eating a higher carb, lower protein diet, it's really important that most of those carbs are plants, not spaghetti and breakfast cereal. If you're active, strength training, and meeting basic protein requirements, I don't think you have to worry about losing muscle. When I was a vegetarian before and got fat, I was definitely a spaghetti and breakfast cereal vegetarian. I was eating too many calories. Plus, there was very little protein in my diet and no intensity to my workouts. I liked walking, seated dumbbell curls and eating donuts. So, uh, I don't think my previous failure is indicative of what would happen if you do plant-based right.

Posted by skwigg at 9:28 AM CST
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
The One Where I Try to Color My Own Hair

Disclaimer: mindless girly hair talk ahead. Last time I blathered about my hair, I had just discovered the Curly Girl method. (See the Curls Gone Wild post.) Two months later, I'm still avoiding sulfate shampoo and silicone conditioners, which can strip and dull hair. I don't use a blow dryer or terrycloth towels because they create frizz. I wash my hair with conditioner or with a natural sulfate-free shampoo. I put gel in it while it's soaking wet and I let it air dry. I've been really happy with the curls and shine. I was not eager to do salon color again, knowing that they would fry my hair with stinky, burning chemicals, strip it with bubbly sulfate shampoo, and then try to fake some shine with silicone conditioner. Never mind the crazy combing, the aggressive towel fluffing and the hot blow drying. Horrors! ;-)

Plus, with the economy collapsing and whatnot, I started to feel kind of dumb for dropping major $$$ in the salon. Think of the giant flat screen TV or shiny MacBook Pro I could have purchased with last year's hair dollars! I kick myself. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I noticed that the posters over at CurlTalk recommended Robert Craig hair color. It's permanent hair color but it doesn't have any ammonia or peroxide. It doesn't stink or sting and it won't lighten. In fact it's supposed to leave your hair shinier and better conditioned than when you started. Uh-huh, I've heard that before! Still, I thought it was worth a try. Harsh salon color does tend to uncoil curls even if it's done well, and I've had some serious calamities with drugstore hair color. I've gone too light and had hair turn to straw and break off. I've put "blonde" color on my hair and had it turn black. I've rendered myself flat fake brown.

Knowing what  menace I am, I used the "Ask Karin" link on the Robert Craig page to get some professional advice on what color to use and how long to leave it on. Since I have brown hair, I thought I should pick a brown color. Uh, no. Since Robert Craig colors don't lighten, and since my already highlighted hair could grab up too much color, I was told to use #19 Light Golden Blonde. Glad I asked! Sheesh!

Anyway, here's what happened! Ta-da!! It looks shiny marvelous and it cost $9 instead of $175. Who's clever now?! :::happy dancing:::

Posted by skwigg at 3:00 PM CST
Monday, 24 November 2008
Now That I'm Over 40

I received a fun little question yesterday: Have you noticed training is different now that you are a '40's woman?

Now that I'm in my forties, I've noticed that I don't enjoy having 200 pound guys fling me through the air like a rag doll, slam me to the ground and stand on my neck. I don't enjoy knees to the solar plexus, hyperextended elbows, or being choked until I see cartoon creatures. The novelty has worn off. During my martial arts years, I broke my hand, my leg, two toes and a rib. I tore tendons, suffered nerve damage, and had some titanium hardware installed. I lost count of the X-rays and physical therapy sessions. I think I had a retina detaching or eyeball bubbles or something. I would see stars and they wouldn't go away for hours.

I don't feel any need to keep up that level of ass-kicking. Like I'm all for training hard, eating right, and staying in outstanding shape. But I don't need to be sparring full-contact with 20 year olds. I don't know if it's age or chickendom or wisdom but I like waking up and feeling good. I like not being on a first name basis with the nurses at the urgent care clinic or the other cripples in my orthopedic surgeon's waiting room. I like when training makes me happy and gives me energy instead of making me feel like I've been hit by a bus and dragged a few blocks. I like it when I don't need stitches. It's the little things.

I'm sick of bodybuilding food. Chicken, bleh! And I'm sick of rules. And I don't like diets. And I don't want to be Crypt Keeper lean or Oxygen Magazine muscular. I'm cool with looking a little girly as long as it's a fit girl. I'm drifting toward eating 3 meals per day instead of 5-7. I eat mostly monkey food. I love kettlebell training. I'm trying to get into yoga but it's hard for my little squirrel mind to relax and shut up. For example, right now, my squirrel mind is singing that song from Madagascar."I like to move it move it. I like to move it move it. Ya like to MOVE IT!" Not very conducive to holding still.

What about you? Have you noticed a difference in your training philosophy as you get older? Do you find you're working harder? Mellowing out? Losing your mind? Any revelations you'd like to share?

Posted by skwigg at 11:40 AM CST
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
I Want a Medicine Ball


Men's Health Medicine Ball Ab Workout Challenge

Medicine Ball Ab Workout (Modified Version for Bad Backs)

Posted by skwigg at 8:33 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 24 November 2008 11:42 AM CST
Monday, 17 November 2008
Eat Like a Chimpanzee

That's what it says in my new book 12 Steps to Raw Foods - eat more like a chimpanzee. The chimps have got it going on in terms of fruit, vegetable and especially greens consumption. Since we lack monkey jaw muscles or the patience to chew and eat endless quantities of leaves, she encourages humans to blend greens into smoothies. I am a green smoothie making fool! I've been pulverizing bananas and greens in my Waring Professional Bar Blender. If this keeps up, I may need to look into getting a Vita-Mix.

In an effort to eat less meat and more like a monkey (or are they apes?), I've maybe strayed a bit from Precision Nutrition. Strict PN call for complete lean protein at every meal. I know vegans do PN but the logistics still puzzle me. I'm good with a handful of nuts as the protein in a meal. I don't think that's exactly "complete" but it works for me.

My meals have been like:

Breakfast: green smoothie with banana, mango and spinach, 2 scrambled eggs

Snack: yogurt, nuts, kiwifruit

Lunch: half a peanut butter sandwich on heavy duty whole grain bread, celery sticks, pineapple

Dinner: minestrone soup, apple

Snack: piece of Swiss cheese, carrots, grapes

I don't know what plan that is. I guess it's the Skwigg Makes Stuff Up approach. :-)

My main thing was knocking off my creeping junk food consumption. So far, that's going great.

Some of my other favorite meals are things like a banana, granola and hemp milk. The sliced banana takes up most of my tiny Spiderman bowl so I can't go overboard on granola. Or, the other day I had an avocado for lunch. (I know, what the hell!?) I mashed it up with lime juice and chopped onion and ate it with organic blue corn tortilla chips. I'm well aware that there are barely 10g of protein in those meals. I don't know what to think of myself. I'm running amok!

I've been blasting the KettleBelle Body workouts for the last week and I feel like a springy machine. I know that the workouts are marketed to women, but guys, if you want months of killer well-designed, periodized, total body kettlebell routines, you should check it out. Shhhhh! We won't tell anybody. There are even a couple of guys participating in the 30 day challenge. And I'm told there's another challenge happening in January. So, if you get a new kettlebell for the holidays, or if your eating gets too festive, be sure to join us. I'll probably do the January round too, just for fun.

I'm amazed at how strong and flexible my shoulders are getting. No pain, awesome range of motion. You know that move where you reach one arm over your shoulder and one arm up from behind and you clasp hands in the middle of your back? I could always touch my finger tips. With a bit of squirming I could lock my fingers together for half a second. Now I can reach behind me, easily grab hands, and hold them there clasped. That impresses me! Monkey arms!! I think the dynamic warm-ups play a big part, and of course the kettlebell training, and the yoga. I'm getting more stretchy and less crunchy in general. I'm also getting leaner but I will resist the urge to check the numbers after only one week. So far, so good on the "not becoming an obsessive psycho" goal.

Posted by skwigg at 2:29 PM CST
Monday, 10 November 2008
This Week in Nutville

Ok, ok, ok! SO! I finally looked at The Elimination Diet last night (couldn't help it). He lost me at "This eating plan is an all-or-nothing deal." All-or-nothing is bad news for the obsessive and eating disordered, but I'm glad I kept reading long enough to see what the meal plan is. It's mainly organic lean meat, fruits and vegetables. It's actually really simple, no counting, and not that far from the way I normally eat. HOWEVER, I really like wheat. Wheat bread, Wheaties, Wheatables, Wheat Thins, anything with wheat in the title, I'm all over. And caffeine? Hello! One needs that to function.

So, I won't be eliminating anything. I'll stick to my semi-vegetarian Precision Nutrition and just clean it up a little bit. Quit using Kit-Kats for carb portions and whatnot, maybe up the fruit and vegetable intake a bit more. I credit Precision Nutrition with saving me from years of low calories and obsessive counting, so I'll not be abandoning it to go on a diet. That would be crazy even for me.

I wasn't going to do measurements and photos, but of course I did. I'm like a moth to a bug zapper with that stuff! Not being at my leanest and feeling totally ok with it is fabulous. Not being at my leanest and seeing pictures? Holy crap! :-D

Don't worry; I still look like a fit healthy athlete. I am still in my happy range, but I'm bumping up against the top of what I consider my zone. I'd like a little more wiggle room rather than feeling like I'm one cookie away from disaster. So, I'm going to hit the kettlebells hard for 30 days and tighten up my normal eating without doing anything radical. I'm NOT going to officially enter into the KettleBelle Body competition. I'm NOT going to do anything ultra-strict like an elimination diet. All I need to do is focus a bit more, get my intentions straight, and be consistent. I can do that and still have fun.

Since I've been eating meat maybe twice a week instead of five time a day, I have not lost any lean mass! I got out the calipers today and confirmed that my muscle is not disintegrating. (See my Flexitarian Adventures post if you missed the part where I got flippin' sick of chicken a few months ago.) I'm a much happier eater when I don't pile up the animal carcasses, but back when I was a vegetarian for seven years, I got fat. I like to think that I'm smarter now and can go mostly veggie and do it right. (Tip: Don't eat bread 6-11 times per day. :-)

I ordered The Thrive Diet yesterday. It's a vegan meal plan for athletes and is supposed to be really good. I pre-ordered the paperback version that's out next month, so it will be a few weeks before I get it. I've had a couple of meals that were all raw food - fruits, vegetables, nuts - and they were good! I mean, really good, and fun to eat, and filling but in a light and happy sort of way. So, I'd like to learn more about vegan and raw food meals and include more of them in my meal plans.

Posted by skwigg at 2:14 PM CST
Saturday, 8 November 2008
I Need a Food Plan Pronto

The KettleBelle Body 30 day challenge starts Monday and I still haven't figured out which nutrition plan to use. I downloaded Dax Moy's free Elimination Diet yesterday and I'm afraid to look at it. Just the name scares me. I'm guessing it will involve eliminating things. I don't want to get too crazy! My goals are to have fun, to get stronger and more skilled with my kettlebells, and to get a little leaner for the holidays.

What's flipping me out about the food is that I'm currently eating mostly vegetarian and LOVE IT. But all of my go-to, no-fail, get-ripped meal plans involve boatloads of animal protein. I don't really want to go back there, but I don't want a totally crazy raw food vegan thing either. But, but, but...

So, I sit here puzzling. I may stick with Precision Nutrition but keep it mostly vegetarian. I'm sure if I would clean it up and actually comply instead of doing my freewheeling crazy interpretation I would lean out a bit more. Or maybe there's something I haven't thought of. Or maybe the Elimination Diet isn't so bad. Or maybe I shouldn't worry about food, measurements, or pictures AT ALL since I'm not officially entering. I should probably just enjoy the workouts and stop being such a freak.

Speaking of freak, I've been photographing my food again. The first picture is lunch yesterday - scrambled omega eggs, spinach, onions, Havarti dill cheese and strawberries on the side. The green drink is my first attempt at a green smoothie. It's ice water, a banana and a handful of spinach. That's it! I thought about putting berries in it but the green was too pretty. Maybe tomorrow I'll go ahead and purple it up. I guess raw food people eat these smoothies as a stand-alone breakfast. I had eggs with mine because a blender full grass clippings still doesn't register as a complete meal.

I'm going to go read the Elimination Diet now. Maybe I'll look for some more nutrition plans on the web. Or maybe I'll come to my senses and go make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

If you want to play kettlebells for 30 days, even if you're not entering the contest, join us at Mission Slim-Possible.





















Posted by skwigg at 1:37 PM CST
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Some Fun Kettlebell Videos

It has occurred to me that many people have no idea what you do with these things. Behold some basic drills: squats, swings, cleans, clean and press.

This one includes halos, figure 8s and tactical lunges on the beach.
And finally, we have 67 year-old Edith rocking out her first set of swings.

Posted by skwigg at 11:35 PM CST
The Benefits of Kettlebell Training

I'm trying to remember the last time I picked up a dumbbell. It's been weeks. Why, you ask? Well, I've gone goofy stupid over kettlebells. Oh, how I love them! Let me count the ways:

1) Nearly every exercise is a total body strength move. Want to pick a heavy kettlebell up off the floor and press it over your head? Well, let's see, you need your quads, your hamstrings, your glutes, your abs, your biceps, your chest, your shoulder, your back, and your triceps. Oh, and your fingers, forearms, feet, and eyebrows are working too.

2) Nearly every exercise is a heart-pounding cardio move. Try swinging a big hunk of iron through the air and using every muscle in your body to control it. It pegs your heart rate and burns a crap ton of calories.

3) It's current. The fitness trends now are about total body training instead of body part splits, big compound movements instead of isolation exercises, standing free weight and body weight training instead of seated machines, high-intensity interval training instead of slow boring cardio, functional power and flexibility instead of isolated part sculpting, time efficiency instead of 90 minute "arm" days. Kettlebell training delivers on all counts.

4) It's old school. It doesn't get more old school than Russian strong men, or more simple than using one weight as your entire gym. If you have a body and you have a kettlebell, you're set. You can do an almost endless array of pushing, pulling, pressing, squatting, lunging, twisting movements.

5) It's time efficient. Because you're training strength, balance, flexibility, and cardio at once, kettlebell training doesn't take all day. You can get a compete and killer workout in a 10-minute blast.

6) It's fun. It's addictive. It's like nothing else. Even though it's possible to do very brief kettlebell routines, you won't. You'll be grinning like an idiot and swinging that thing all over the place. To stop you, someone may need to knock you out and pry it from your hands.

I've included a picture of my babies. I bought the 26lb Russian Red first. It's perfect for swings but was a little heavy for learning single arm overhead stuff. Kettlebell movements can be fairly explosive. I didn't want to rip my rotator cuff and knock myself out, so I bought an 18lb kettlebell (and then a second one) for more variety. I hope to get another Russian Red for Christmas, a 35lb this time!

When people ask me what weight to start with, 15-18lbs is probably good for most women, or 20-26lb if you're freak monkey strong. And of course, you'll move up from there. :-) If you have injuries or are very out of shape, you might start with a 10lb but you will outgrow that weight VERY quickly. Kettlebell training involves the biggest muscles in your body. So, consider what your legs, hips and core can do, not just what you can curl or press.

Wondering where to get these things? Try Target. No kidding, Target! They carry GoFit kettlebells in a variety of sizes. They also have Iron Core instructional DVDs. If you can find your kettlebell at a Target or a local sporting goods store, it will save you a fortune in shipping charges. If you need to buy online or you NEED one of those shiny Russian Reds, I bought my kettlebells from Dragon Door. Amazon also carries a variety of them.

For workouts, I've quickly become a huge fan of Caroline Radway's KettleBelle Body. I bought it and reviewed it a few weeks ago. In spite of the pink and blue color scheme, it is NOT a fluffy program. Her workouts are pure evil genius and would flatten most guys. They're HARD but they're totally modifiable for beginners. The more of them I do, the more I fall in love. Kettlebells, body weight training, and yoga are a simple and beautiful combination. I'm not missing barbells, treadmills and clanky weight machines AT ALL, and I'm not going back to the gym. You can't make me! 

If you're interested in getting started with kettlebells and getting in shape for the holidays, Caroline Radway has created a new Ning community for female kettlebell fanatics called Mission Slim-Possible. There is a kettlebell transformation contest starting Monday, November 10th. I'm in! Sorta. I joined the group and I'll be participating and cheerleading. What I won't be doing is giving myself a mental breakdown over photos, calories, measurements and competition. I'm having fun! This is waaay too much fun for me to ruin it by obsessing and being a freako. However, if you're a normal person and actually motivated by a deadline and a little accountability, wooohooo!!! This is a great opportunity to receive kettlebell instruction and support and get in killer shape.

Posted by skwigg at 11:35 PM CST

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