Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

I had a fitness test at my gym the other day to update my progress since I started going six months ago. When I first started, my whole focus was on getting ready for the wedding, so I was just looking to tone up my arms a bit. I wasn’t overly motivated and I was swamped with wedding errands, so my first few months were a bit spotty attendance-wise.

But once the wedding was over I found myself in a mood for change. I cut off all my hair, I stopped ODing on sugar every day, I started making an effort to read more and I determined that in order to be healthy and happy I needed to commit to really, really trying. So the gym visits became more regular – three times a week minimum – and I started to take my plan seriously.

It turns out that when you eat properly (or at least far better than you have in 30 years) and work out three days a week, you start to see real results. When I did my first fitness test I was so out of shape that I barely made it to a ‘fair’ fitness rating. In the seven minute stationary bike ride I thought I was going to pass out and my heart rate was through the roof. This time it was hard to get my heart rate high enough to register while riding AND talking to my amazing trainer. I wasn’t winded at all and I felt fantastic.

I am lucky to have an amazing support system at my gym and they were all thrilled by the results of this test. I have lost weight, gained lean muscle mass, improved my fitness level (from fair in April to superior in September) and lost inches all over my body. I feel good, I sleep better and I actually really look forward to my workouts now. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’m finally on a path that’s leading to a healthy, happier person.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Climbing Back on Board

This week has been better. I feel good about most of the food choices that I’ve made, though I’ve noticed that I feel ravenous a lot of the time. I’m not sure what’s up with that, since I’ve actually found that my insane hunger has been a little more under control since I cut down on sugar and started eating a cleaner diet. Maybe my week of excess left me with a lot of work to re-do.

I’ve tried not to give in too much to the hunger, unless I feel like it’s a genuine need and not just the scary cravings monster rearing its ugly head yet again. I caved and had some of those Quaker rice crisps a few times, but those are such a nutritional wasteland that I’m determined not to make that a habit. Some of Quaker’s rice cakes are made from brown rice, so those feel like a better choice. It’s just that those don’t tend to be what I want when it’s 8:30pm and I’m tired and watching C.S.I.

And during the day I’ve turned to Lara Bars a few too many times this week. I think those are a great food for when you’re on-the-go and aren’t able to stop for a proper re-fuel. Typically I’ll turn to them once a week or so when I have to run errands that involve me getting home later than normal or if I’m going to be out all day and am not sure what healthy options will be available. They were a huge help when my mother-in-law was in the hospital and I was there every weekend – who knew hospital food was so unhealthy? But this week I’ve found myself starving mid-morning and eating half of one to get me through to lunch. Then mid-afternoon I find myself digging into the second half.

It’s not the worst snack in the world and I’ve only done this a few times this week, but it still makes me think that there’s something not right in my diet. Hopefully this weekend I’ll get in a good grocery shop so that I’ll have lots of fresh fruit and veggies to help me through any cravings.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Stumble, Then a Fall

I fell off the clean eating wagon this week. It was probably inevitable that it would happen at some point, I just didn't think I would do it in such spectacular fashion. It started out innocently enough with a few bites of the wedding cake that my mother-in-law had frozen after our wedding. I brought it into the office so that I wouldn't have a ton in my freezer and was tempted into just a few bites. It was super sweet and gave me a headache.

The next evening Shawn and I had a romantic date night, our first in awhile, and we decided to just forego clean eating for that one day. So we split popcorn at the movies (no butter or topping, but still...) then we had pad thai at one of my favourite restaurants and I had a raspberry martini. I should have stopped there, of course, but I think that the wedding cake triggered my sugar cravings and I talked him into splitting a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. It was divine. We walked home afterwards (about 45 minutes), but I still felt overly full and gross.

The next day was better and I resolved to get to the gym, but a friend came into town unexpectedly and I joined her for dinner instead. It was worth it to see her, but the cleanish-sounding wrap I ordered for dinner ended up being a bit more sauce-heavy then the description and, once again, I ended the day on a poor meal choice.

Then last night, after a day of better choices, Shawn's band played a show. We ended up eating dinner at Tim Horton's since there wasn't a lot of other options outside of bar food in that area. So dinner was once again not clean, but at least better than fries and a burger. Being out with friends and having a blast, it was easy to have a drink... or four... over the course of a very long evening. I've been drinking whiskey and club soda when I want a cleaner option, but overdoing it is never good. It was the most I've had to drink in ages and at the end of the night we ended up going for pizza to put some food in my stomach - a bad habit that neither of us have engaged in in ages.

This morning I feel pretty gross. I'm disappointed that I only got to the gym twice this week because of my hectic schedule and that my social eating put me so far off track. It does firm up my resolve to get back on the wagon this week, though. I've already scheduled in my gym visits and, starting today, I will be eating clean again. I could beat myself up about the choices I made (and, if I'm being honest, I already have), but I have to look at this as a setback in what has otherwise been a pretty steady few months of doing the best I can. It was a tough week with way more events and activities then I've had to deal with since I started on this journey to better health and I realized that in the future I'll need to better prepare for those sorts of busy times. Today is a new day and I'm going to look forward from here on in.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eating Clean at the Cottage

Over the summer Shawn and I had the opportunity to slip away from the city for a few days at a family member’s cottage by the lake. It was a wonderful opportunity and we created some incredible memories during our visits. We have gone to the same cottage several other times in the past, but this year we were doing our best to eat clean while away. We found that it was far harder than we had hoped, but it also helped both of us to decide when it is worth it to indulge and when it’s best to keep to the straight and narrow.

In general, we try to bring our own food for these trips. We’re limited by things that will travel well in our cooler, but it does mean that we can load up a bag of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads to bring with us. We also try to pick up a healthier snack option, as we both tend to get the munchies when we are there. Whether it is low-sodium blue corn chips, Rice Works sea salt chips or my sugar-free banana oat cookies, we are conscious of slipping in something to take the edge off and keep us from making a run to the local supermarket for a snack. Usually it works.

I did fall off the clean wagon a few more times on our trips than I likely would have at home. But as we sat on the dock watching the moon rise over the lake I found that it was easier to just sit back and enjoy the moment – and my hot skim milk with amaretto – then to beat myself up for having a sweet indulgence. One of very few on the trip. Likewise, when Shawn’s grandmother invited us to her church for pancake breakfast I at first fretted about how to avoid the lovely, fluffy sweet treats that I’m sure are brimming with sugar. In the end, I gave in and had two (sans syrup) and enjoyed both the pancakes and the company. It was a relatively small indulgence (especially without all the extras) and I walked it off later that day taking in the local arts festival. His grandmother was thrilled, I had a short sugar high, and I was back to eating clean hours later.

Now that we’re home I’m happy to have a little more control over our diets. I’m also looking forward to spending the cooler months developing even more clean snacks and treats that will travel well for next year. Does anyone have a good pancake recipe? There’s a church group that might be interested…

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

State of the Sugar Address

It’s been a few months since I started my journey towards better health and a cleaner diet. There have been many ups and downs as I figured out what worked for me and what didn’t and while I tried to manage my new lifestyle.

Looking back, there were moments I caved when I wish I hadn’t, but those incidents also helped me to realize how little my body actually wants the foods that I couldn’t resist before. And there have been times where little splurges helped keep my spirits up and my resolve in place. It’s been about balance.

I also have a wonderful support system in place. My hubby cooks all our meals and was thrilled when I suggested eating healthier. I think sometimes he wishes I had his same ability to indulge in moderation, but he understands my struggles and is happy to experiment with fresh, healthy food that is both delicious and nutritious. This would have been a much harder few months without coming home to his avocado, mango and grilled chicken salad or brown rice and bean medley, among dozens of other mouth-watering dinners.

And the ladies at my gym, Christine’s Fitness, have been such an amazing support and resource to me. I had no idea that working out three days a week could shape and sculpt my body so quickly and effectively. I am not killing myself in my workouts, as I had feared, but I am definitely pushing harder each time I'm there. With so many gyms to choose from in Toronto I am forever glad that I made the right choice with them. They are always there to answer a question or help guide me towards making healthier decisions and they are also some of the nicest ladies I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

There are still struggles. I eat out too often and it’s hard to make good choices when I step out of Shawn’s home cooking zone. I’ve had moments where I over-indulged in salty snacks, especially when my body was in the initial stages of re-adjusting. And there are times when I am tired and hungry and just want to eat whatever. But as time passes it’s easier to not fall off the wagon. I’m learning to eat out without eating myself to death and I’m finding a whole new community online to help me navigate the tougher moments. Life is good.