Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Calorie Game

After a particularly frustrating week, where I could have been called Captain Muffintop every single day, I've decided it's time to return to the basics.  What better way to pontificate about the necessity of counting calories than to get back into the groove of it?
The first picture that shows up when you Google "Captain Muffintop." I shit you not.

"But I don't want to count calories. It's hard and it makes me feel bad about food and blah blah blah." 
Too bad.  Losing lbs is a numbers game.  Are you sick of your jeans mocking you when you put them on? Let's do this.

Step 1: Go to this site and put in your info to find out your BMR.  (Mine is 1805.75, just to keep me honest here)

Step 2: Continue on to this page to figure out how many calories you burn on a daily basis. (I'm going to multiply by 1.55 since I do boot camp 3x/week and dodgeball 2x/week, in addition to the stuff I do with my class and any extra workouts I pop in.  This means 1805.75 x 1.55 = 2798.525)

Step 3: Find yourself a notebook or journal that you're not going to get sick of looking at.  Mine is pink.  Alternatively, there are a TON of apps for smartphones that you can plug calories into (I've used MyFitnessPal, it's not too shabby).  I just find it harder to avoid a notebook sitting on my counter than an app I can hide. 

Step 4:  Eat a "normal" day - eat what you'd normally eat (or, if you can remember everything you ate yesterday, go with that) and write it all down.  It's good to get a base of how many calories you're currently eating now.

Step 5: At the end of the day, add up all the calories you ate.  Now, let's have a little comparison to your number from Step 2.  How did you stack up?

Here's the skinny:

If you are looking to maintain your current weight, you should be hitting that number.  This just means the number of calories you expend in a day is the same as the number you're eating.  
If you're looking to gain weight (I wish), you're going to need to eat more calories than that number.  Don't do this without talking to a doctor or someone who knows better.

If, like myself, you are looking to lose weight, you're going to need to eat less calories than that number.  How much less?

A pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories.  So if you want to lose one pound in a week, you need to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day.  This means if your number was 2800 (like mine), you should eat around 2300 calories.  If you want to lose a couple pounds, you're going to need to create 1000 calorie deficit every day, which means around 1800 calories.  I'm going to aim for about 1600, just because it's a number I've worked with before and I know sometimes I'm a cheater and it may end up closer to 1800 some days anyway.  
This has no calories right? The heart means no calories, I'm sure of it.

Keep in mind, if you're working out, that's creating extra calorie deficit.  There is such a thing as eating too little, and your body is going to start eating muscle.  If your body is starving, it's not going to go for your muffin top (such a selfish bastard) - it's going to go for your arm muscles you've been painstakingly trying to build for the last 2 years.  So don't eat too little.  A cotton ball and a bottle of water isn't lunch.  If you'd like to know how many calories you burn in a workout, I'd suggest a gadget that uses a heart rate monitor to calculate it (it's more accurate).  I have a Polar watch and I really like it.  I just need to get my lazy ass in and get the battery changed right now. 

Step 6:  Start looking for where you can carve out calories.  Do you really need that donut from the staffroom when you've already had a snack?  Do you really need 5 tbsp of sugar in your coffee, or can you try cutting back to 3?  One of my weaknesses is my coffee creamer.  I'm really of the mind that if I'm putting creamer in my coffee, it better taste good.  Maybe my solution is drinking less coffee. Stay tuned to find out how many people feel my wrath this week due to lack of caffeine.

Oh, you want to know how many calories are in the foods you eat? Check the box or ask the Google.



Sunday, January 20, 2013

i hate the gym

There's a reason I gained weight in the first place - I'm a pretty lazy person.  Given the choice between a long walk on the beach, and sitting on my ass on the beach with a good book, I'm probably going to choose the sitting option.  This is why I made the promise to myself that I would always say I'd go if someone asked me to do something active.

I joined a gym once.  I was really motivated at the time, doing Weight Watchers and trying not to be the biggest I'd ever been anymore.  I even went to spin classes there (if you want a killer leg workout, fill your boots).  It didn't take long before it stopped being a novelty to go to the gym and work out.  I often hid in the "ladies only" section and avoided eye contact with all the women who couldn't have found a spare pound even if they had a goddamn ice cream baby.

A friend of mine (who actually worked at the gym and signed me up for the gym) asked me if I wanted to join boot camp.  All of a sudden, I didn't have to think "What do I feel like doing now?" while looking at all the gym equipment as if it was coated in syphilis.  Someone was telling me what I was going to do next, make sure I was getting a well-rounded workout, and then kicking my ass if they saw me slacking.  I loved it (and still do). 

A little while later, a friend asked if I'd like to join her dodgeball team.  (I had many visions of getting pegged in the face in the weeks preceding the start of the season or embarrassing myself horribly with my jiggling arms). You can get a surprisingly hard workout when running around a half of a gym avoiding large balls (ha).  I've now played on 3 different teams, including an all-girls team of awesome bitches, and I play two nights a week under the nickname "Crusher." If you'd asked me 2 years ago if this would be my life, I would have laughed and keep eating the cupcake in my hand.

I'm also a golf pro. No big deal.
The point of all of this is, you don't have to "go to the gym" to get a good workout.  In fact, I would avoid the gym and find something else that will keep you interested and encouraged.  I've tried a bunch of weird things over the last few years, including Zumba (the perfectionist in me did not take well to that), CrossFit (holy fuck), and 5 mile night runs (in the snow, no less).  You would be shocked what you can subject your body to and it will actually enjoy.  If you're lazy, like me, try something that has a social aspect (yoga with a friend, running buddies, dog training classes, pole dancing) to give you something to look forward to.

Up next for me - hot yoga?

"diet" shit and pacing yourself

Let's have a little chat about food with "diet" labels.

I know.  You're saving calories and fat, right? In a day where you've already eaten a bunch and you want something sweet, a can of Diet Pepsi looks like a goddamn miracle.  I've been there. I used to buy cases of it and stock it in the basement for when I wanted "dessert."

Last year for New Year's I decided I didn't want to drink diet pop as much anymore.  I didn't say "I'm not going to drink diet pop anymore." I said "Let's try it out and see what happens." There has been a giant debate over aspartame and artificial sweeteners - "What are they doing to us?!" and "They could cause cancer! We can't know yet!", blah blah blah.  I've also heard that artificial sweeteners cause you to retain weight in your midsection (aka a "Diet Gut"?) but I don't really remember where I heard it and if it was a credible source.  At any rate, I didn't have much to lose. I'm kind of one of those "Try anything once" kind of people.

I started small - I just stopped buying cases of it to keep in the house.  If we went out to dinner or a movie, I still got a diet pop. My husband inherited a habit from his parents of drinking 100% juice cut with sparkling water, and I started drinking that to get my "fizzy" fill (not that I really needed it, but it's a little more interesting than watered down juice or regular juice, for that matter).

I'm not sure when it happened, but I started to taste something in my occasional Diet Pepsi.  Don't say "Bullshit!", you're keeping an open mind here.  I know some people who say "You can't taste aspartame, it's all in your head." No, friend, it's not.  Aspartame and artificial sweeteners do have a bitter, chalky, nasty aftertaste.  Also, they are sickeningly sweet.  I made a fatal and depressing error and purchased "reduced sugar" coffee creamer last week.  Ruined a large coffee and my morning. 

I think if you drink things with artificial sweeteners often enough, you don't taste "the taste." But I dare you to go off anything with aspartame, Spenda, sucralose, or any other artificial sweetener for a month, and then try it again.  "Why the hell would I do that?" you ask?

A helpful Venn diagram for you.
If you're going to have something, like...a chocolate bar.  Do you want the waxy, off-brand shit from the dollar store or do you want a really nice piece of heaven with real cocoa and a little hint of sweetness?  Most people want the real deal.  There's a lot of shit floating around in our food and drink these days, and we are facing a really depressing situation in society right now where it seems like everything is fake and hyped up and made to suck you in and buy, and everyone is getting fat because of it. I was one of them, so I can say it.  

If you stopped eating artificial things, I think you might find you feel a lot better.  Don't cut everything at once - you will resent food and me and start sending me threats that I don't really have time for because I get enough of it from my students.  Pick one thing, like diet pop, or french fries, or something, and start cutting back.  Make a little game for yourself - how long can I go without?  You might surprise yourself.

P.S. I'm still working on cutting out things.  I "give" myself salad dressing, coffee creamer and movie popcorn (it's sprinkled with crack, I'm sure of it). Cut yourself some slack and start small.  

What do think you could try to live with less of?


Thursday, January 10, 2013


Over the last few years I've accumulated some thoughts on the "getting healthy" process.  I don't like to think of it as "losing weight" or my "weight loss journey." It has become so much more than that.

If your dream or aspiration is to "just lose weight," you may need to shift your priorities and your expectations.  Let's be honest - you probably already know how to lose weight.  Shedding pounds is a matter of burning more calories than you eat (and keeping in mind that 3500 calories = a pound).  So there you go - go lose weight.  

Alright, here's the truth - if you adopt the makings of a healthy lifestyle, your weight will correct itself naturally.  It's not an easy thing to do, especially if you've had many years to make some unhealthy habits.  The good thing is once you start making healthy habits, the unhealthy ones don't really tempt you as much.  (It sounds ridiculous, but it's true! Another story for another day!)

The short story is you're going to have to start moving your ass.  I started and quit Weight Watchers ten times in my life, and always gained back more than I'd lost each time until I hit a gut-wrenching 330lbs.  There's a reason - I wasn't active.  Sure, I went for an obligatory walk around the block when I felt guilty about a chocolate bar, but that's not enough.  As I mentioned above, you need to burn more than you eat.  If you want to lose a pound in a week, you need to burn 500 more calories than you eat.  The amount of calories you need in a day totally depends on a variety of things, like your height, weight, gender and amount of daily activity you get.  If you would like a jumping point, The Daily Plate is a great place to start. 

A calorie is a measure of energy.  Your food is meant to be energy and fuel for your body to do stuff. All calories are not created equally! A calorie worth of chocolate is a lot different than a calorie of apple, and your body will use them differently.  If you want your body to be ready to do all the physical activity you're going to get into, then you need to get some useful calories into you body.  This means things like fruits, vegetables, protein, and caaaarbs.  

You already know this stuff, it's not new.  So let's get back to the nitty gritty - you need to get your butt in gear.  And this leads me to my first tip - I never say no when someone asks me to do a physical activity.

Ugh, I know. Daunting...and potentially life-changing. 

And I ran a friggin' 5K. 
It was a fateful day in June of 2010 when a friend said "Want to do a boot camp class with me?" First thoughts were something along the lines of "Holy shit, no." And then I remembered my promise to myself and said "Okay, sign me up quick before I think of a way out of it." It was that class, taught by my trainer Michelle, that got me going. I've now been seeing her ~3 times a week for two and a half years.  Has it been easy? No.  But now I get to brag that I'm stronger than my husband and I find that kind of awesome.  I had never seen myself as an athletic person before, and yet now, I can't imagine not going to her classes and getting my ass kicked.  

So here's my challenge to you, and I will make a promise to you in return - start saying "Yes" when someone asks you to join them, whether it's a spin class or a hike or a walk around the block.  You never know what you'll end up loving.  In return, I'm going to start trying new things and posting about them, a sort of "guinea pig" so you can read a true-ass account of how something is instead of the hyped up versions.  We're in this together, might as well have some fun! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

when motivation wanes

I'm in a dilemma.  Well, maybe it's not a dilemma but it's a quandary of some kind.  In November, I felt myself getting all fired up and angry that I had been gaining and losing the same 5lbs for almost 6 months.  I had changed job locations, gotten married, and gone on my honeymoon and I needed to get my ass in gear.  I told myself that having a goal to work towards would help (like my wedding had kept me chugging along before).  So I found the closest half marathon I could find (even though the longest run I'd done was a 5-miler at that point) and signed up. 
It's now exactly one month away, and my desire to train for it and actually run it have completely dried up.  What is that?!  I mean, I've been having some pretty nasty back pain that totally puts me off of running at all right now, but I thought I would at least still be inspired and motivated? I am not.  This is awful and annoying. 
Just needing to find some inspiration at the moment.  I have one month.

Monday, January 7, 2013

a fresh start

Shut up, I know it's cliched.  

This isn't a resolution, I promise.  This is just about sharing my story and seeing if it helps or inspires or scares someone enough that they can do what I did.  

This isn't about anything serious, or anything horrible, or anything mindless.

This is about the fact that some people are unhealthy, and some of those people want to change that part of themselves.

Three years and 115lbs ago, I was a different person.  Ten years and 155lbs ago, I was a stranger.  I think.

How is it that a person can have such a desire to look and feel a certain way, and catch a taste of success, only to throw it away?  Unintentionally or not?

Well, I suppose that's also what this is about.

Tears, temptation, teacups, triumph, tastes, and treadmills.  And trying.

Shake it out.