Accountability – In which, I attempt to gain some

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Accountability…Level 11

Accountability.

For me, this is the single most important factor in achieving a goal.

I have alluded to the fact that my health and fitness have suffered somewhat (ok, fine, a lot) over the past year. In August I got inspired to take control and perhaps over-zealously started going to bootcamp 5 days a week. Not surprisingly, this led to injury, which still, 5 months later, hasn’t improved.

It’s a new year, and while I am reluctant to use the term “resolution” I am inspired once again to renew and improve my outlook and to take back the healthy lifestyle habits that were once easy and enjoyable.

I’m putting this all out there to the world, for better or worse, because it helps to keep me accountable. You, dear reader, are helping me though we likely have never met. Look how inspiring you are!

This post is embarrassing, quite honestly. I am supposed to be a professional that helps others achieve exactly what I am complaining about. I’m also human. I have bad days (or years), and now I know how easy it is to let things fall apart and the consequences of doing so. Perhaps next time, I will have a better handle on how to maintain my habits and goals even if motivation is suffering.

Photographs of a dance event I performed at this past weekend gave me an objective view of just how bad things have gotten. Alright! I get the picture (heh, get it?), I am ready to do this!

I set a goal of May 14, my birthday. I feel this is a reasonable time frame in which to lose approximately 10-15 pounds of fat, regain my strength, and eliminate or improve my injuries. I also plan to take a trip to Portland around this time to visit a friend and some family and I want them to be proud of me. I would hate to be one of those people you see after several years and while you are overjoyed by the reunion, you’re thinking “Eeeesh, what in the hell happened to you?” Oh come on, you know you’ve done it.

I will make any excuse under the sun not to get off my ass and go to the gym. In the schedule below I have varying degrees of accountability. I have pre-paid for personal training so I feel obligated to show up, that one is a no-brainer. I enjoy the yoga class as well, and the set times help me to get there but this is pretty easy to back out of too. Showing up consistently to a class like this would work best with a friend. Lastly, we have cardio. I really hate cardio. Like, really hate it. Sooooo tedious. My trainer expects me to stick around and do 45 minutes of cardio after our session but I usually can’t make it through more than 20 or 30 before I get too bored and begin to stare incessantly at the seconds ticking by. I much prefer to get outside, especially if it’s warm. Even if I don’t push my heart rate as high, I’m usually able to last up to three times as long while getting some Vitamin D in the process. I figure it’s a good trade-off.

My regimen:

Mon: Personal Training (60 mins)
Tue: Off
Wed: Personal Training (60 mins), Hot Yoga (60 Mins)
Thu: Dance rehearsals (90-120 mins)
Fri: Cardio (30-60 mins)
Sat: Outdoor cardio/activity (60+ minutes)
Sun: Hot Yoga (60 mins)

So, assuming 122 days until May 14, this regimen will have me working out 86/122 days, or roughly 70% of the days. ( I am not including dance rehearsals in this figure.) I think this is do-able. I suspect the double whammy on Wednesday might suffer a little from time to time, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Yes, I know there are more efficient ways to work out (HIIT, anyone?), but this is what I, personally, am willing to do considering my bodily limitations and what I actually enjoy.

Of course, 80% of results are achieved outside the gym, so I will be cleaning up my diet (again) as well. Back to meal planning, cooking real food and following a mostly paleo/primal-ish diet. I am curious to see what the 21-day Sugar Elimination I attempted a few weeks ago combined with a workout regimen could do for me.

I will post an update once a month until May rolls around. I expect to be able to give you excellent progress reports. Gold star for me!

So what do you think works best, high stakes, positive reinforcement, the buddy system, or the promise of a reward? I would love to hear what works to keep you accountable.

21-Day Sugar Elimination: The good, the bad, and the chubby

We all go through phases in our life where our good intentions with diet and fitness get left behind. For me, I didn’t just fall off the wagon, I took an epic swan dive off of it and then got dragged behind for a few miles. Yeah, it was that bad, or at least, it felt that way to me. I decided I needed to take charge of my diet again, especially now that I have a consistent schedule. I decided to try a 21-day sugar elimination challenge. 30 days can feel like forever, and two weeks isn’t usually long enough to see results, but 21 is pretty manageable.

The What:

No processed food, no fruit, no honey, no sugar (obviously). I grappled with the idea of whether to include grains or not and opted for occasional grains. No wheat, but I did make some savory millet muffins to satisfy my texture cravings. I also did use stevia occasionally. I made up my own rules for this challenge, however, there is an official version of the 21-Day Sugar Detox complete with guidance and meal plans here.

The Why:

My weakness is poor planning. I dread coming up with meal ideas and I absolutely loathe going to the grocery store. If all the ingredients are there and a plan is in place I have no problems with the actual cooking. The sugar detox was less about eliminating junk food like candy, soda, or donuts which I don’t eat anyway, and more about actually cooking real meals on a regular basis instead of reaching for a Lara Bar as dinner (oh, yes, I did).

The Bad:

The first few days were a little rough. I had some mild headaches and fatigue as my body made the switch from carbohydrates to fat as its primary fuel source. Meal planning and prepping was definitely an effort and I had to set aside the time to make it happen. I never made it the full 21-Days. I didn’t think about Thanksgiving when I started this challenge. This holiday isn’t that indulgent for me, but I didn’t anticipate leftovers and it fell apart quickly after that. I only survived 15 days of the challenge.

The Good:

This was so much easier than I expected. I thought my sugar cravings would turn me into something like Gollum, lurking around my kitchen, tearing food out of my cabinets looking for any morsel of chocolate I can find hissing “my precioussssss!!!” I’ve totally been there before; you probably have too. Admit it. Honestly though, I didn’t have many cravings. I found that some tea or coffee with a little stevia easily squashed the sugar monster when it started to rear its ugly head. I did have success with planning ahead and cooking real food. Usually doubling the recipe to ensure I had lots of leftovers for lunch and dinners throughout the week. Now that I know I CAN do this, it will be much easier to commit to and maintain in the future.

The Chubby:

Yeah, ok, I admit I did this a little for the weight loss. I know that eating proper whole foods is the key to having a healthy lean body and I wasn’t eating enough of it. I did lose almost 3 pounds in the 15 days I stuck to the challenge. That’s actually pretty good considering I haven’t been working out at all. It was the difference between pants that were unbearably tight, to pants that are now merely uncomfortable. Now that I have had some success with this experiment and will be starting to train again this week, I see no reason why I can’t get back to the fitter version of myself I was a year ago.

The Takeaway:

A challenge like this should never be used as a quick fix. Instead, view it as an experiment to see how your body, mind, and mood are affected when changing variables such as nutrition, fitness, or mindset. I noticed that when I did indulge in sugar again, the headaches came right back. I wasn’t expecting that but I’m glad I know that I have immediate negative reinforcement to keep me in check. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t complete the challenge, but instead of binging on cookies because I failed, I’m going to celebrate the success of my 15 days and use that to fuel the coming weeks, months and years of a healthier lifestyle. I won’t be perfect, but I’ll be a step closer. I also think a challenge like this would be good to do a few times a year to help reset any bad habits that have crept back in and keep you aware of your goals.

Changing bad habits doesn’t have to be agonizing and dreadful, but it does require effort and that effort is critical to the success of your goals. What effort will you commit to today, right now, this very moment?

What I Learned From Nutrition Tracking

I have a lot of clients who use the My Fitness Pal website to track their calories. I decided to make an account and try it so I could become familiar with the process.

It has been several years since I have bothered with nutrition tracking. I believe if you eat the right foods you shouldn’t have to count calories. I learned something interesting though; I don’t eat what I thought I did.

Mistake #1: I thought I ate more calories. I have always struggled to eat more than 1200 cals/day. I figured since going paleo, the additional fat in my diet would fix that. Nope. Still barely making it to 1200. This is too low, especially for an active individual.

Mistake #2: If my carbs are low, my sugars are low too. In my world, these are the same thing but MFP breaks these into separate categories. My carbs are doing well with under 120 grams most days, but my sugars are typically going over the recommended amount. That means the majority of my carbs ARE added sugars. Not good at all and probably the reason I still crave sweets. I’m feeding the monster without even realizing it.

I have also realized that the simple act of logging my food intake helps me make better choices. I feel guilty if I have to confess to eating something I shouldn’t. It’s there in black and white right in front of me, driving up those sugar grams!

My opinion on nutrition tracking has changed somewhat. I DO think it’s a good thing to do. Do you have to do it forever? No. Should you become obsessed and stressed out with your logging? Hell no! But logging can be helpful to determine where you are actually starting so you can more realistically define your goals and change your habits.

MFP is free and easy to use. It is a little time consuming at first while you build your library of foods that are typical for you, but it does have a pretty extensive library which makes it easy to find foods, even specific brands and restaurants. There is some guesstimating involved but it doesn’t have to be perfect.

A note on MFP: It automatically calculates target macronutrients based on your goals. These numbers are based on the USDA food pyramid and therefore, not accurate for those following a different diet. Your protein and fats may be in the red, while it expects you to exceed 150 grams of carbs/day. You may need to mentally adjust the targets to support what works for you.

UPDATE: Yes, you can change your macronutrient profile! Took some digging to find where to change the settings, but you can adjust these goals to fit whatever diet works for you.

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Target nutrients based on weight loss goal of .5lbs/week.

Meal Snap iPhone App

Meal Snap is an app for your iPhone that helps you track calories by photographing your food.
You snap a picture, upload it, and it returns the approximate number of calories in your meal.
This idea is brilliant. I have spent loads of time in the past attempting to count calories, and when your food doesn’t come in boxes with convenient nutrition labels slapped on the side, it can be a very tedious process.
The Lifehacker review says it works pretty well but I would love to hear some personal reviews since I remain skeptical.

Let’s say you have a plate of steamed veggies. You snap the photo, send it in, and it comes back with say, 80 calories. Great! Now let’s say you have a plate of steamed veggies with melted butter smothered on them. The butter is invisible as far as the camera can tell. I bet it’ll still come back at 80 calories. I don’t have an iPhone so I can’t test this out. Maybe there are options to customize and input details.

It’s a great idea, but I have a hard time believing it will be useful as a weight loss tool.

This customer review on the Meal Snap site made me giggle.

To test it out I took a picture of my cat. The result said she was not food… I beg to differ :).

Related nutrition tip: Everyone knows veggies are good for you. Vegetables contain fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. This means you need to have some fat with your vegetables in order to make use of these very important nutrients. Add some butter, cheese or bacon….veggies don’t sound so boring now, do they?!