Lil Something Extra

15 Dec
Yummers!

I never expected to like this stuff. Surprise!

Surprises are the spice of life. They’re what keep us looking forward to the next day. You expect to get to work and go through your routine. But isn’t it nice when someone surprises your group with cupcakes? You get to the store with list in hand. It’s an added bonus when you find out your eight-pack of toilet paper is buy one, get one free.

The same can be said for your weight-loss journey. You set a goal and a plan of action to accomplish it. But you’ll surprise yourself along the way with what you enjoy about the process or the changes to your body that you weren’t expecting.

Talk to any trainer and they’ll tell you the same story: A new client comes in and is asked what their goals are. Usually it’s to lose a couple pounds or to “boost their energy level.” A client who has never had a strict workout regimen rarely admits to wanting a six pack and quads of steel. A good trainer will stifle their laughter because they’ve heard it all before. As professionals, they know that in order to boost their client’s energy and help them lose weight, they’re going to build muscle—the cost benefit the client wasn’t expecting.

For me, it was my love of running. I began my weight-loss journey in much the same way. I had no idea how to shape my body, but I knew I wanted to lose weight. I started by walking, doing about three miles in an hour. Then my pace picked up, but I wanted to fill the hour. So I began running to fill out the time. In the beginning I hated running. I was an asthmatic as a child and it brought back memories of constricted airways. But I learned how to pace my breathing, how to slow down when things got to hard, but still how to keep challenging myself.

Now, running is my main form of exercise. It was, and still is, a surprise to me how much I love it. In the beginning running wasn’t even on the radar. Now I’m scoping out half-marathon opportunities.

I started out just wanting to fit into my clothes, pride keeping me from wanting to go up another dress size. Now my 10s are loose, my 12s are falling off of me and my 14s are hopefully on the body of someone who needs those clothes more than I do.

It wasn’t just the exercise that surprised me. I’m a decent cook, but pastries are my specialty. Anyone who’s seen “Top Chef” knows that pastry chefs tend not to do well when it comes to meals. But a few good cookbooks and some tweaks to family favorites have me itching to get into the kitchen.

Even the foods I don’t prepare myself are a shock. Once upon a time, you couldn’t pay me to eat Greek yogurt. And the non-fat variety? Psssh! Now I can’t get enough of that creamy goodness. Add in some granola and honey, and you’ve got a happy camper.

It’s the things that will surprise you about yourself that push you to see what else you can do. If you like running, experiment with different versions of it. You could run a hiking trail or try sprints. If you’ve just discovered kale, try kale chips or even a warm kale salad.

Use your journey to get to your destination, but also to learn even more about yourself.

What surprised you most about your weight-loss journey?

Enemies and Side Pieces

11 Dec
This is just a misunderstanding. The treadmill is not your enemy, despite this guy's unfortunate incidence. Courtesy of Tumblr

This is just a misunderstanding. The treadmill is not your enemy, despite this guy’s misfortune.
Courtesy of Tumblr

When you’re an able-bodied person who’s not exactly physically fit, one of the hardest mental hurdles you’ll have to jump is realizing that there are things you’re capable of doing. You’ll tell yourself over and over again that walking up stairs gets you out of breath. Parking the car further away seems like a waste of time. Baked chicken is OK, but the winner will always be fried yardbird.

You’ve essentially made exercise your enemy and fattening food your side piece.

It’s easy to see exercise as the enemy. You end up sweating, hurting, aching and, occasionally, smelling. You have to set aside time in the day to physically exert yourself. If exercise hasn’t been a part of your lifestyle in, like, ever, the idea of physical activity could turn you into a rage monster.

“Why do I have to work out in order to lose weight?” you might ask yourself.

The answer is: you don’t. Exercise is an added bonus to the weight-loss process. My homie Dr. Ian Smith said it best:

Imagine owning an expensive sports car that can top speeds of 100 mph and more in just a matter of seconds. Now imagine four flat tires on that shiny red sports car. How fast do you think that car will be able to go now? The engine is fine, the tank is full of gas, and all of the electrical components of the car are like new. But with four flat tires that sports car will move up the road slower than a 10-ton cement truck. This is exactly what it’s like to diet without exercise. You need to have both working together to get the best results.

—Extreme Fat Smash Diet, 2007

Seeing exercise as the enemy can only hold you back. It is a good companion to take with you on your journey. Exercise likes to do the things you like to do. Sure, you enjoy Netflix marathons and naps, but maybe you also enjoy nature. Walking (exercise) can give you a better glimpse of it. Maybe you like lounging on the beach. Swimming (exercise) loves the beach. Or maybe you just really enjoy peace and serenity. Have you met my good friend yoga (exercise)?

Before labeling exercise your enemy, get to know it. Try to understand the activities that work best with your lifestyle and personality. Your enemy can become your best friend when you’re trying to lose the pounds.

Not as good a friend as your current side piece: fattening food. While you and exercise may have a relationship based on misunderstanding, you and and your dietary companion may need to think about a trial separation.

We’ve all taken health class. We’ve all heard our doctors tell us that the pizza, McDonald’s and Popeye’s aren’t doing us any good. But just like Pookie and his crack, it just keeps calling us.

Let me be your sponsor and tell you to let the bad food go. Make dishes like brown rice and sauteed fish your main boo. It’s hard to remain monogamous to the food that’s doing you right when the food that does you wrong is so tempting. But remember that the bad food is a side piece. It knows its place.

It knows that soon you’ll get tired of the runaround and have to choose. And after turning exercise from an enemy into a friend, you won’t want to cheat on your main boo. You’ll want to do right because it feels good to you. There will always be another fast-food restaurant or cream-covered casseroles to tempt you away. It will be on you to make your good-food main boo stick around.

How have you contended with exercise as your enemy? What’s your favorite side piece (mine is Popeye’s)?

Skinny Guide to Stocking Stuffers

9 Dec
Fill this puppy up with some inexpensive goodies. Courtesy of Tumblr

Fill this puppy up with some inexpensive goodies.
Courtesy of Tumblr

Christmas is fast approaching, and I haven’t done any shopping. I don’t usually buy many gifts. I tend to bake and send cookies off to the fam. They like it, and it saves me money.

I’ve mentioned several times in this blog how cheap I am. And if you’re anything like me, you need to be mindful of your duckets. But what about the holiday gift for the skinny person in your life to keep them on the right track in the new year?

Every workout warrior loves to armor up, but gear prices can leave you frustrated. Here are a few stocking stuffers to appease your sweaty friend without giving you sweaty palms.

1. Socks. You know your distant aunt who’s been out of work for a while but always scrounges up the coins to buy kids socks? You could be that aunt! You could be the one to buy your friend the funky socks that will get them noticed on the running path. You could be the one to buy that six-pack of Hanes your friend’s been meaning to pick up. Because one thing we gym rats never have enough of is socks. My personal preference is ankle socks, but I’ve been known to grab a pair of church socks when I’ve run out. Socks—you’re welcome.

2. Water bottle. Hydration is key. I can’t stress this enough. Just like new parents never have enough baby bottles, gym rats never have enough water bottles. We love them in all sizes. There are the little ones that clamp onto our running belts. There are the giant ones that we leave at our desks all day. There are the ones that won’t poison you if the bottle’s been left in the car for a while. There are even tiny squeeze packs that just make you question what the inventor was thinking. But your athlete will always be grateful to have a new bottle to keep them hydrated.

3. Beanie. It’s cold right now. While some of us will look at this as an excuse to skip the exercise class, your friend has been grinding away at the pool or in barre class. When the body temperature gets that high, layering up with extra jackets, coats, etc., is a hassle. Still, your friend needs to guard against the elements. A simple hat will work wonders. Have you ever gone out into freezing temps while your head is still sweating? It’s like a million bees are stinging you in the head. Your friend will appreciate your kind gesture at keeping the bees away.

4. Travel sizes. Depending on your friend’s gym, the amenities may not be all that appealing. People can be gross. The one saving grace can be having your own body wash, shampoo and the like. Lucky for your budget, these items cost about a dollar individually. You could stock your friend up on all the good soaps and lotions and mouthwash for less the $10. It’s like a Bath & Body Works gift set without all the bottom notes of alcohol. And this is a gift for both of you: you don’t want to be around someone funky and your friend doesn’t want to use the old shampoo in the gym shower. It’s a win-win!

5. Gift cards. When all else fails, just throw money at the problem. No one has ever said, “No,” to a gift card. No one. Even if it’s a gift card to the most random store, your workout warrior knows how to find what they need. But, to keep things simple, I suggest looking at the brands your friend wears and some of the stores they go to. You know, as you would for anyone for whom you’re buying a gift card. Sporting-goods stores are always a plus, as are lower-rung department stores like Target. If you don’t know the right socks to buy, trust me that your friend does and will with a gift card.

Whatever you do, make sure that your gift comes from a place of love. Your friend will grateful for your efforts.

Have you done your holiday shopping yet? What are you most looking forward to?

Justice and Exhaustion

4 Dec
Scene from a New York protest across the street from Rockefeller Center.

Scene from a New York protest across the street from Rockefeller Center.

Editor’s note: This is an off-topic post, not about physical health and wellness, but about mental anguish and exhaustion from recent events.

This is difficult. Writing is my medium of expression, yet I find it hard to convey how I’m feeling right now. The best I can come up with is exhaustion.

It didn’t begin as exhaustion. It began as anger, then morphed into frustration. Now I am lulled into exhaustion. Since the summer I’ve been working very hard to stay physically fit. But I haven’t been emotionally ready for the events that have taken place since then. Eric Garner, Mike Brown, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley, all unarmed, have all died at the hands of the police.

To make those tragedies worse, the officers who killed three of them won’t face any charges (the officers who killed Rice and Gurley are still awaiting a grand jury decision).

The case that’s close to my heart is Mike Brown’s because it happened where I grew up. To see your neighborhood on the news, to hear reporters talk about West Florissant, to have to explain the anger and frustration that is happening in your community is an eye-opening experience. To watch the judicial system go through its process and still not work, over and over again, has been wearing me down.

Fannie Lou Hamer said it best: “I’m sick and tire of being sick and tired.”

I am worn out from crying, protesting, donating, explaining and fearing for my people’s lives. More than that, I’m tired of people listening to us scream and not hearing the reasons why.

Earlier this week, the St. Louis Police Officers Association took issue with a handful of St. Louis Rams players who decided to show their support for members of the community by walking onto the field using the “hands-up, don’t-shoot” gesture, which has become synonymous with protesters standing in support of Mike Brown’s family. Instead of respecting these players’ First Amendment rights, the SLPOA issued a statement asking for an apology from the NFL and the Rams and also for those players to be disciplined.

The NFL, rightfully, declined. The players were showing their support for a community—my old home—that was hurting after a grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson. Peacefully expressing your frustration is not only legal, but it is a protected right. It is a right that the officers of the SLPOA are sworn to protect. The Rams are members of the community that the SLPOA has sworn to protect. And instead of protecting those rights, the organization sought to punish the players for taking advantage of those rights.

I thought a lot about this incident a lot the day it happened and throughout the week. What would make a sworn police officer think he has the right and duty to infringe on another person’s rights? How did we get to this point?

The answer is that I just don’t know. I don’t understand where we go from here. But wherever we go, it’s got to be somewhere better.

Last week during our Thanksgiving dinner, we all went around the room to say what we are thankful for. My 15-year-old cousin, whose father owns a business right up the street from where Mike Brown was shot, said she was thankful to have her family with her. We have a lot of young black men in my family right now, with majority ranging from 14 to 22. She looked at them, and with tears in her eyes, said, “It could have been anyone in this room.”

My exhaustion occasionally tips back into the realm of anger when I think about this. That this 15-year-old girl is scared for her family that way pisses me the fuck off. That those boys’ parents fear for their sons’ lives that way enrages me. That a grand jury can have video proof and an autopsy report showing an unarmed man’s death was a homicide and still not send the case to court makes me want to scream.

It is senseless. It is cruel. It is unjust. And, unfortunately, it is reality.

Holiday Food Lag

1 Dec
All this and more over the next few weeks...

All this and more over the next few weeks…

Courtesy of Tumblr

Like many people, I enjoyed my Thanksgiving holiday. I ate dinner with my 91-year-old grandfather and 84-year-old grandmother, I baked seven pies and a cobbler (plus a caramel cake), I put away at least a half-pound of the 39 pounds of turkey (three birds) and I got to hang out with my family, most of whom I haven’t seen in a year.

For many, Thanksgiving is just pre-gaming for the Big Show: Christmas. That’s when the real gluttonous activity happens. For me, Christmas is much quieter. For one thing: I have to work that day. For another: I usually spend that evening having dinner at my cousin’s house. It’s all very low-key, especially without the dozens of desserts, so there’s less temptation to shirk my dietary responsibilities.

I like to call it the Holiday Food Lag. It starts with the sugar-and-salt fest of Thanksgiving and ends with the sugar-and-salt fest: part 2 of Christmas. In the middle, there will be end-of-year office parties, friends’ holiday parties, extra cookies, lots of liquor and many a chicken satay coming your way. You’ll be tempted to give up the exercise and dietary plans because what’s the point? Someone’s going to be shoving more sugar-and-salt in your face in a couple days.

It’s easy to see the Holiday Food Lag as a way to just take a month off. There’s so much to do in those four weeks, it can be burdensome to add one more thing to the to-do list. Still, you have to make yourself your No. 1 priority.

Before I began my weight-loss journey, I was still living in Atlanta, where the Chick-fil-As and Waffle Houses were aplenty. Barbecue as far as the eye can see. Publix sandwiches at the ready. And, my personal favorite, a Wendy’s around the corner. Plus, my grandmother cooked big dinners every Sunday. It wasn’t unhealthy, but when Gram makes your favorite of cabbage with a side of macaroni and cheese, you don’t say no to second helpings (sounds gross, but that’s because you’ve never had Gram’s cabbage with a side of macaroni and cheese). I would cook occasionally, but most of the time I just didn’t feel like it.

Then the holidays would come (all holidays: Easter, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, etc.), plus the dozen birthdays throughout the year, and you’ve got plenty of excuses to “get back on track come Monday.” As I’ve said before, there’s no time like the present. These few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are no exception.

Well, this is the time to test your resistance. Can you forgo the third round of champagne? Can you say no the the eighth batch of Christmas cookies brought into the office? Can you get up early to work out to counter all the sliders that will be wafted in front of you that evening? Of course you can. You’re a strong-willed person who knows what’s good for them. And you can even start your resistance training early.

All those desserts from last Thursday are going to go bad if they’re not eaten soon, so take them to work. Freeze some of that turkey to use in a soup for later. If you’re celebrating Christmas, burn some calories by setting up your Christmas decorations. If you plan on spending New Year’s at the beach, now’s the time to make sure your bathing suit still fits. And if you told yourself “I’ll get back on track come Monday,” guess what? It’s Monday.

You’ll be doing the most this season, from shoveling out of blockades of snow to elbowing someone in the face for the latest toy craze. Just don’t neglect yourself and your health in the process.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 283 other followers