Thursday, April 28, 2011

Working towards the 3 June goal

via Flickr by Alan Rossiter (2009)
So, I have some goals that I'm approaching and have a few more weeks before I need to reach them.

I know I'm about to approach the 50 lb lost mark, but while I want to celebrate that milestone, I don't want to make it into a big deal.  Not right now. I've struggled for the last several weeks and am hopefully just now coming out of it, so celebrating so soon feels a little premature.

Instead, a while back I set some goals for me to reach by my 35th birthday on 3 June.

They are:
  • have lost 60 lbs total (weight: 267)
  • be able to run 30 minutes consecutively (approx 2.5 miles - but time is more important than distance)
  • be able to swim 1 mile

At the moment, swimming 1 mile is totally achievable.  It might take me a while, but I know I can do that one now that my form, breathing and stamina in the water are so much better.  So, I'll just need to time myself on it so that I know what my base time is and work to improve on that in the future.

Reaching the 60 lbs lost is also do-able provided I have no more stalls, and I have to admit that scares me a bit.  After feeling like I've been starting and stalling over the last 6-8 weeks, I'm lacking in a bit of confidence.  But then I say to myself, "There's no reason you can't do this, Jayme!  You've got 6 weeks to lose 11.4 pounds.  With your increased ability in the gym (yay protein!) and summer coming on, you can totally do that!"  And so I'll do the best I can and see where it gets me.  Besides, I was struck by something Mary at a small loss has decided to do as she gets closer to reaching a huge milestone: she's putting away her scale.  Rather than being anxious and watching every small step toward (or away) from that goal, she'd rather put the numbers of the scale away and coast toward the goal.  In the same way, I don't want to focus on the 50 lb lost.  I don't want to be lulled into a sense that I have arrived, I want to strive for something beyond.  Somewhere in that process, I will have reached 1/3 lost toward my goal weight.  And when my birthday rolls around, there'll be lots to celebrate!

The running goal is something I'm not sure about.  I think the time has come to start running again.  And the fear I have about it is of the unknown; since I haven't run in a while and have been doing the elliptical instead, I just don't know what I can do anymore.  It's silly - but I'm a little afraid to try for fear that what little capacity I had (7 minutes) has diminished.  But I won't know until I try, eh?  I may be able to knock it out of the park and all of this fear is for nothing.  But I don't know.  So we'll see how I do in the coming weeks and I'll let you know.  And yet, somewhere in all that, if I succeed, not only will I be able to run 1 mile but hopefully up to 2.5 miles.  Those would be milestones in and of themselves.

So here's to goals and the next 6 weeks!!

What short-term goals are you working towards right now?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Before & During (a photo diary)

As I've said before, I'm trying to take more pictures of myself as I go through this journey in order to be able to see the changes that are happening that I don't really see myself.

Yet, I found myself lacking in 'before' photos in order to make comparisons.  I always hated having my picture taken because the person I saw in the photo didn't correspond with the person I saw in the mirror: the person in the photos was really fat and since I see about a size 16 (which is still overweight, but not as big as reality) when I look in the mirror, it just didn't reflect who I thought I was (and was part of the reason why I think I just kept getting bigger and bigger - I just didn't see it!)

So, I've had to raid my beloved's computer for photos taken in the last couple years.  He has them; I do not. 

But now that I've got a few to work with, I wanted to 'recreate' them - wearing the same clothes (if I can or still have them) and doing the same thing.  Mostly, this is for me, so I can see the changes as I go. 

So here's the first installment:
Summer 2010 (before I started and so approx 327 lbs)                                                         April 2011 (48.6 lbs lost)       

Now I can see it.

More to come as I continue along this journey.  I also plan to do another set of body shots and measurements in the next couple weeks (probably when I hit the 50 lb loss mark), so be on the lookout for that.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weigh-in no. 34

Happy Easter!

Today's weigh-in day and a chance to see how this whole protein supplement thing has been working, so here we go....

Weigh-in no. 34 (-1.6)

Starting weight:  327.0
Last week:          280.0
This week:          278.4      
Loss of                 - 1.6
Total Loss           - 48.6 lbs


Seriously, I feel so much better.  While this week has been different in that I've been trying to be much more aware of what I'm putting in nutritionally (that makes it sound as if I wasn't before, but I just wasn't paying attention to protein), the struggle I wrote about on Monday has pretty much gone.

And in case folks are wondering, I'm not lowering carbs by upping my protein (at least not intentionally).  I'm just having the protein supplements instead of other snacks I would have had, and the Powerbar I'm eating is pretty high carb (25g).   Where I'm losing calories is more in the sheer volume of what I'm eating has been reduced (because my body isn't telling me I'm hungry all the time) and in fat calories (1g fat = 9 calories; 1g protein = 4 calories) as the supplements are pretty low in fat content.

Either way, that's my week!  Let's see what next week holds and here's to hoping that the 280s are truly gone!

How's your week been?  
Any big plans for Easter Weekend, the Bank Holidays (if you're in the UK), the Royal Wedding or anything else?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Protein: the magic cure? Maybe....

In my last post, I talked about some of the issues I was having which were contributing to some serious struggling I have encountered on this weight loss journey I've been on.  I looked at possible internal/mental issues that were holding me back, but also wondered if I was getting enough protein in my diet which would 1) enable me to work out harder and 2) help me to feel fuller than I had been feeling previously (which was leading to overeating and feeling hungry all the time).

So, this week I decided that I would up my protein intake and see if that made a difference.  But here's where I have to admit something:  I really didn't know how much protein I was supposed to have been eating.  I have no excuses; I just never registered that information when I was looking at my calorie intake, etc.  All this exercise, understanding that you want to lose fat and not muscle mass....and I never looked at how much my protein intake should be.  Shocking!

I thought that eating around 30-50g of protein a day was enough.  I had no reason for that number, but just generally estimated that that's what I normally get (even when I'm eating meat).  But according to my research this past week and my current weight, I should be eating 2-3x that amount!!

The protein shake I'm using (choc flavor)
Holy cow!!

As a result, I should be eating between 
90-150g of protein per day.  


I feel a little ashamed of myself.  I should have paid attention to that.  But what's done is done and now I know.  But my poor body!  Before this journey I didn't take care of it really at all, and now for the first 7+ months I was asking it to do things that I didn't give it the fuel to do!

No wonder I was hungry all the time.  And while I haven't talked about it here, I had noticed a drop in my muscle mass according to my body analyzer scale, so I knew something was up that needed to be changed.

So since Monday, I've been trying to make sure I eat at least 90g of protein per day, by supplementing my diet with a protein shake in the morning and a protein bar after working out.  (Note: if you go this route, make sure and read your labels - some protein bars are really high in calories and don't have as much protein as some that are lower in calories). 
The protein bars I like

 I have to say that it has made a HUGE difference.  

I still find I want to snack throughout the day, but the compulsion isn't overwhelming but seems to be a bit more of a 'habit' thing.  But more than anything else, when I've exercised this week, I've not gotten as tired as quickly and my body has been able to endure and recover much better.  I was tired after swimming 1/2 mile on Wednesday, but not as tired as swimming 1/4 of a mile would have made me last week.  Furthermore, I was able to lift more and do more reps in weight training than previously.  That's improvement all around.

And I'm hoping that come weigh-in on Sunday, I'll see a drop in number on the scale as well.

Of course, as I lose, my protein intake will drop in proportion (as will calories, etc).  But still - you have to eat the right stuff to fuel the body you have right now.

So, you want to know much protein you should be eating per day?  See these calculations I found at (and were corroborated elsewhere):
How to Calculate Your Protein Needs:

1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg

2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

Use a lower number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8). Use a higher number (between 1 and 1.8) if you are under stress, are pregnant, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training.

Example: 154 lb male who is a regular exerciser and lifts weights
154 lbs/2.2 = 70kg
70kg x 1.5 = 105 gm protein/day

Calculating Protein as a Percentage of Total Calories:
Another way to calculate how much protein you need is by using daily calorie intake and the percentage of calories that will come from protein. To do this, you'll need to know how many calories your body needs each day.

First, find out what your Basal Metabolic Rate is by using a BMR calculator.
Next, figure out how many calories you burn through daily activity and add that number to your BMR. This gives you an estimate of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

After you've figured out your maintenance calories, next figure out what percentage of your diet will come from protein. The percentage you choose will be based on your goals, fitness level, age, body type and metabolic rate. Most experts recommend that your protein intake be somewhere between 15 and 30%. When you've determined your desired percentage of protein, multiply that percentage by the total number of calories for the day.

For a 140lb female, calorie intake=1800 calories, protein=20%:
1800 x .20 = 360 calories from protein. Since 1 gram of protein = 4 calories, divide protein calories by four:
360/4 = 90 grams of protein per day.

There's issues with protein intake, however, if you are diabetic or have liver issues, I think.  So if you have any health problems that may affect how much protein you should be eating, make sure and do your research and consult your doctor.

Otherwise, this week's lesson is:  Protein is where it's at.

Get you some!

*oh, and by the way, Holland & Barrett didn't give me any discounts or anything to plug their products - I just wanted to share what I'm using, but will probably give other products a go as I work out what's best for me*

Have you had any "well, duh!" moments in your journey?  
Or am I the only one?

Monday, April 18, 2011


Oil on Canvas
48" x 24"
Completed in 2003
© Matthew Felix Sun
via Flickr 
I'm having a hard time of it, y'all.  And as I look back and think about it, I've been struggling off-and-on since about mid-February, but it's gotten harder and harder since then.  This weight-loss process since about that time has felt like two steps forward, one and a half steps back.

Overall, I'm still losing, for which I am very thankful.  I weigh less than I did in mid-February.  But damn if it hasn't felt like an uphill struggle.

Until January, I have to say that on the whole, this losing weight business wasn't very difficult.  Sure I had a couple hiccups, but nothing major.  I remember being surprised at how easy it was, to be honest.

But now?  Now, it's difficult.  Now, I feel like every pound I lose is a battle.  Some weeks I win, other weeks I lose.  Some weeks I'm able to feel pretty good about what I've done (despite a gain), other weeks even a loss seems like a failure.

For the past three weeks, my eating has been a constant struggle.  I'm seriously trying to resist the urge to eat stuff in amounts that I haven't eaten since I started this journey.  Temptation is at every turn and the desire to not just indulge but overeat is strong.  WTF?

To be fair though, these have been extraordinary weeks as well.  My schedule has been chaotic, my activities not my normal routine, and emotions have been up and down.  But still....

I looked back through the blog to see if I could pinpoint a change and I wrote this on 13 February:
The changes in my diet are sustainable and something I can easily do for the rest of my life.  There's been nothing drastic and nothing is off limits, but I find that I don't enjoy overeating anymore.  The misery of being too full isn't worth it.  I find that I crave fruit and vegetables (which I never thought I would).  I could easily choose to eat a big bowl of sauteed zucchini/courgette over a plate of greasy pasta any day.  My portion sizes are smaller and I find quite a bit of satisfaction in recognizing when I'm full and able to push my plate away.  And I don't even count calories or keep a food log but just eat intuitively, with awareness in the back of my mind of what my per day caloric intake should be.
Where did that person go?  And in the space of about 8 weeks no less?  To be fair though, I still don't enjoy overeating....but that doesn't seem to stop me or curb the desire to overeat.  Why is that?  I have a few theories, but nothing that seems to pinpoint it exactly where my mind says, "Yep.  That's it.  You've hit the nail on the head."

I started back on depression medication back in January, and after a month I went for a refill and to consult with the doctor about dosage and some side-effects (namely complete loss of libido, which I know is common) that I was experiencing.  He suggested I taper down, to take only half the already small dosage I was on.  In the end, I stopped taking it altogether after a couple weeks of weaning off because the doctor had also basically implied that so little a dosage indicated that I was finding results more out of a placebo effect rather than the actual medication.  Nice.  Since that made me feel like a bit of a hypochondriac, I stopped taking it.  And when did I stop completely?  About the end of February.  Hmmm.....

via Stephen.D.Hammond. on Flickr
I'm also wondering if it's time to bring in outside help, to start seeing a counselor/therapist who is able to observe from the outside and point out things that I am just too close to see.

Am I self-sabotaging as I approach 
the 50 lb lost mark?  

I don't think so, but we all know how the subconscious works and at this stage, I'm willing to concede that anything may be possible.

I'd like to think that I'm pretty self-aware, but this journey has taught me that there are things about which I have huge blindspots and just can't see very well on my own.  I knew at some point seeing a professional would be necessary, but given the cost involved, I wanted to hold off as long as I could.  Maybe the time has come.  So I'm going to start looking around and see if there's anyone in the Belfast-area who specializes in overeating and obesity-related counseling.  Will let you know what I find, or if anyone has any recommendations, email me.

And then, I say to myself:
When you hear hooves pounding, don't suspect zebras.  

Is there anything else going on diet-wise that could be contributing to this?

And so I wonder if I'm not getting enough protein and that's why I've been feeling like I've been starving for the last 3 weeks (I started the pescatarian adventure on 9 March).  I thought I had done pretty well at replacing meat-based proteins for eggs, fish and nuts, but maybe I haven't.  Since I haven't been counting the protein (shame on me), that could very well be the case.  I may need to go get some protein shake mix and supplement my diet for a while.  And be more diligent about taking my vitamins.

So, my plan of action (because I'm tired of this crap):
  • Get a protein supplement and take my vitamins every day for this coming week and see if my appetite and control over food is any better
  • Research a counselor and see what options are available to me here and the cost involved
  • If I don't see any improvement from the protein supplement and vitamins, then I'll seriously consider going back to medication, but I want to exhaust all other possibilities first.
Will keep you updated on how it all goes.

Have you ever struggled with something like this?  
What did you do to overcome it? 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weigh-in no. 33

Weigh-in no. 33 (+.2)

Starting weight:  327.0
Last week:          279.8
This week:          280.0      
Gain of                 + 0.2
Total Loss           - 47.0 lbs

I'm annoyed.  Mostly with myself.  These last few weeks have been a struggle and the hardest in my journey thus far and my eating has been off-track big time.  I don't have time to hash it out here today, but I'll post about it all in more detail in the next couple days.

Until then, it's just keep on keepin' on and try to get back in the groove of losing, and say goodbye to the 280s for good.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weigh-in no. 32: Irish wakes & discovering food triggers

"Funeral" - acrylic on canvas by Dror Miler (2009, via Flickr)
This past week, I participated and helped out in my first Irish wake and funeral.  My close friend Emma and her family finally said goodbye to their dad (and husband) who had been struggling with colon and liver cancer for the past 17 months (I've written about them previously here).  I and a couple others were called upon to be present and assist the family over the course of the week, taking turns to make sure someone was in the house during the wake most days, and I feel so grateful to have had the privilege of being there and helping.

And what a week it was.  

Jimmy passed away last Sunday morning, the wake began Sunday evening and lasted until the funeral on Thursday afternoon, and then the family had a smaller, more intimate cremation service and reception on Friday.  My own personal grief aside at saying goodbye to such a dearly loved man who in many ways encapsulated all the things I loved and wished my own father were able to be, observing the process here was fascinating.  The sheer volume of people who came through the doors of the farmhouse (Jimmy was a farmer in mid-Ulster) was astounding, the volume of food (mostly sweets) brought by friends and family was overflowing, and the whole idea of so many extended family coming by to pay their respects felt a little foreign, I have to admit.

Meanwhile, there's me - mostly cooking and cleaning up after people so that 1) the family wouldn't have to do it and 2) proper food (not just sandwiches and cake) would be available to sustain them over the course of the long week, so I prepared breakfasts, Irish stew (ha! I had to laugh at the irony of the American making Irish stew for the Irish), pasta and salads, loaves of homemade bread, and other essentials to get them through.

But within the context of this blog, this week served to illuminate some interesting things that I am now much more aware of.  I was surrounded by food this week and I've discovered some triggers for me in relation to it:

1)  I never really thought I was a binge eater - an overeater, yes, but an binge eater, no.  I think I still am on the borderline, but I discovered my ability to turn off physical aspects of eating (taste, feeling full, discernment about what's worth consuming and what's not) were greater than I remembered.  I was surrounded by food this week and I struggled internally a great deal of the time trying to curb my desire to inhale whatever was in front of me, whether it tasted good or not.  Some times I was able to resist or moderate; other times I succumbed (although I think I stopped before I reached the level of 'binge').

2) I discovered that I eat for comfort.  Some say that they overeat/binge in a desire to induce numbness, but I felt numb already without consuming food.  Instead, I found myself eating in order to feel, to find satisfaction, to feel comfort - or, scariest of all, because I can't think of anything else to do with myself.

3)  I was on the road a lot this week driving back and forth to the farm, which was about an hour's drive away.  I discovered that when I'm preparing for a long drive, I compulsively wanted junk to eat.  Somewhere in my mind, long drives require junk food (chips, chocolate, cookies, etc).  So stopping to get fuel before I set off was always a bit of a battle.  Although I gave in and had a couple Cadbury eggs, I did take comfort in the fact that they were my first and only ones this year as opposed to the dozen or more I usually had over the course of a few weeks in years past.

So for weigh-in today, the scale says....

Weigh-in no. 32 (-1.0)
Starting weight:  327.0
Last week:          280.8
This week:          279.8      
Loss of                 - 1.0
Total Loss         - 47.2 lbs

It's better than I expected.  I halfway expected another gain this week.  But I'm out of the 80s again (thank God!) and life appears to be returning to half-way normal again. 

I have a conference again this week so my exercise routine and eating still won't be back completely on track, but hey - that's life, eh?  But now that I'm more aware of my triggers related to food, hopefully I can make better decisions and sustain this week's weight loss.  Here's to another week!

What are your food triggers?  What conditions make your good intentions fly right out the window?  
What food-related things still surprise you in your journey?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shaking it up: changes to my workouts

My workouts have consisted mostly of swimming and the elliptical these last few weeks.  A couple people have asked me about my running, and with that I've realized that I haven't really talked about this switcherooni, so let me spend some time on that.

First off - I still want to run.  I have not given up on it.  But I was getting frustrated with my progress.  The Couch to 5K program just wasn't doing it for me as I found myself relying too much on the walking parts and progress seemed just soooooooo slllloooooooowwww.

So, I ditched C25K and started running just as far as I could go, but I was still struggling at about the 7 minute mark.

I am pretty sure that most of those struggles are in my head and not my body.  But I felt it necessary to pull back a bit and work on my foundations, to build endurance, to feel as if I can conquer something, and to not let this running thing beat me.

And so, a few weeks ago, I noticed some significant improvement on my ability on the elliptical (from 3 minutes to 12 minutes to 30 minutes...) and decided to milk that improvement for all that it was worth.  I needed to feel good about what I was doing.  I needed to feel as if I was accomplishing something.  I needed to step up the intensity and feel as if I was triumphant.

And it's worked.  

For the second week in a row, I've done two 4.2 mile sessions in 45 minutes on the elliptical.  That's a 10:43 minute/mile pace or 5.6 mph!  Hot damn!  And every time I finish, I think back to how hard 3 minutes were for me when I started and I feel amazing about what I've done.  I can't get over how much I enjoy the 'spawn of Satan' elliptical now.  And I know I enjoy it because I didn't let it beat me.

So, all of that to say, I needed a bit of victory.  And I wanted to build up my legs and endurance more before I pushed myself too hard with running and risked injury.

So my plan is to keep going with the elliptical for another couple weeks, increasing time/distance and, if possible, speed.  Then I want to try running again and see how I do.  I'm hoping that I'll see a marked difference in my ability - but I don't want to wait too long and let running turn into a bugbear so I need to get back to it soon.

me feeling like a bit of a poser with all my gear
As for swimming - dang, it's hard y'all!  But I love it.  I'm completely exhausted after I swim, but it's a good exhausted.  I've been taking a swimming 'improvers' class on Wednesday evenings and I've been really happy with my progress, but it has been hard work.  I now know how to breathe properly and am still trying to improve my form.

For now, I'm swimming the front crawl/freestyle but want to learn or get better with other styles as I get further in (don't ask me why, but I really want to learn how to do the butterfly and to do the backstroke without running into stuff).  But as far as progress goes, when I started I could only do about 18 lengths (450 m/.28 mi).  This week, I did 26 lengths (650 m/.4 mi) and could have done more but just ran out of time.

But you want to know what the hardest part 
of swimming is for me?  

Relaxing and keeping rhythm.  I always want to rush.  I want to swim faster.  I get panicky about my speed or how much I still have to do, get distracted, lose count, don't breathe properly, and then flail.  So swimming has been a good exercise for me in slowing down, being present in the moment, and meditating on the task at hand - to swim smoothly and to breathe well.  I think this discipline will be really helpful outside of the pool as well - with running, with life in general.

So, that's my workouts so far.  I'm happy with what I'm doing and still surprise myself at how much I enjoy going to the gym/pool and getting in a really good sweat.

Or as Kanye West (or whoever his songwriter is) said:

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weigh-in no. 31

In an effort to push myself to see the changes happening to my body, I've started taking more pictures.  Those who follow me on Facebook have seen them already.   This picture to the left was me on Thursday this past week, before I left to go to work.

I have to admit though - I'm still struggling to see the change although others tell me they see it.  Weight loss bloggers sometimes talk about having body dysmorphic issues - and some of it sounds familiar to my experience.  But I seem to have two things going on: I see both a skinny person and a fat person when I look in the mirror.  No, I don't see two people, but it's a weird combination of:

1) not seeing the changes from my weight loss and still feeling like I look like a blob

2) not being able to see just how big I am in the mirror, which allowed me to get to be the size I was in the first place.

So, needless to say, I don't trust the mirror or my perceptions of myself.  And so, I decided I needed to take pictures more.  To keep a photographic record of the change.  To be able to put photos side by side and prove to myself, to be able to say, "See!  You've done this!"  It's still uncomfortable for me, but I think it needs to be done.

And yet, I found myself taking pride in the muscle definition in my arms when I was swimming this week and Jim keeps telling me my butt is disappearing.  I have a hard time believing him, but it's nice to hear.

In other news....

getting ready to go swim
It's Week 2 of going to the gym 4 times over the course of the week.  Not bad!  What has enabled this change, however, has not been a new dedication to the gym but a change of circumstances which provide the opportunity.

See, we live about 20 miles from the gym - and by U.S. standards, that's not much but for here and with the price of fuel (we're at about $8.50/£5.15 per gallon), going into town since January has been either because of absolute necessity or an intentional 'luxury'.  My car only got about 25 mpg (again, by US standards not that bad, but for here it's atrocious) and so each trip into town cost me about £10/$15.  So I'd consolidate everything I needed to do into two trips per week, which included the gym.

But this past week, I sold my car.  Only being able to afford two trips into town per week was ridiculous.  And Jim's car gets much better gas mileage, so we're down to 1 car for now (until I can find something more economical) and since he has to go into town for work, I drop him off and keep the car, which enables me to go to the gym more because I'm already in town.  There are benefits to all this trouble.

I was curious as to what my weigh-in would be this week given the amount last week (which included loss of water weight gain from the week before).  My appetite has been greater this week (because of all the working out or hormones? hmmm...not sure) and so I know that I've eaten more than usual.

So without further ado....

Weigh-in no. 31 (+1.0)

Last week:    279.8
This week:    280.8      
Gain of         +  1.0
Total Loss    - 46.2 lbs

I feel like a bit of an idiot with the return of the 280 to the scale, particularly after all my celebration last week.  But to be honest, I know now it'll go.  Even though I'm up one pound this week, I don't feel stuck.  I know it'll come off.  I know I'll hit the 50 lb loss mark soon.  I know my body can do some amazing things it couldn't do a month ago.  And I'm alright.  Anger isn't present today and I'm thankful for that.

How's your week been?  What challenges are you working on?  
What have you noticed as improvements this past week?