Archive | February, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

24 Feb
The keys to beast mode.

The keys to beast mode.

One of the main reason many people decide to diet and exercise is so they can look good. Is it shallow? Maybe. Does it have its benefits? Absolutely.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to drop a few pounds to be beach ready by summer. Some people want to drop a whole human in order to look good at their weddings. People who take this approach, I’ve found, are very sensitive about their appearance. These people will have a problem with what I call “the beast.”

The beast is what happens to you when you get in a zone in your workout. After weeks of trying, you’ve gotten into the supported headstand at yoga. You’ve completed that fourth mile and are on your way to the fifth. You’re able to peddle through third position in high gear without giving up. You’re in beast mode! Congratulations!

The price you pay for beast mode is sweat. It’s sticky, wet clothes. It’s limp hair. It’s the look of a drowned rat. Yay! You can work out. Boo! You look like you’ve just survived a shipwreck.

How can those of us who take pride in our appearances reconcile the process that does this to us? Here are a few tips to let your pretty girl rock while you sweat it out.

Bright Is Right. One of the reasons so many running clothes are bright is because you need to be seen, especially when you’re running in the dark. One of the added perks to these bright colors is that it can literally brighten your day. Wear that bright tank top to the gym one day. Think of your workout wardrobe as a mood ring. If you want to pump up your energy, wear something red. If you need a perky pick-me-up, try something green or yellow. Color looks good on everyone, so try one to boost your mood.

Post-Sweat ‘Fit at the Ready. I’m a firm believer in preparation, and this tip is all about preparation. If you know you’re going to bang it out on the weights, grunting and sweating all over the place, have your change of clothes ironed and hanging up in the locker room. Motivation is a good way to keep a positive outlook. If the beast comes out in the gym, at least you know she’ll stay there.

Tie It Back. Nothing says keep it moving like a good pony. When I was growing my natural hair out, I couldn’t wait until the day I could just pull it up into a ponytail. A sleek pony will do the trick every time. Right now, I’ve got my hair braided, which was my go-to style when I began my weight-loss journey. Braids can be pulled up into a pony with ease, and it always helps you put your best face forward.

Smell Goods. Your toiletry bag at the gym should be stocked with the following: your favorite body wash, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and lotion. If you need to wash your hair after the gym (I don’t), an unscented shampoo will work. You don’t want to overload the senses when you walk out. A light-smelling lotion will offer all the whiff you need when you step out.

Confident Strut. One of the reasons ‘Yonce can say she woke up like dih is because she worked her butt off to do so. If you are between ideal weights and still in beast mode, no one will really know but you. So strut your stuff, diva. You’ve worked hard. You’ve put in work. You may not have gotten right where you want just yet, but you are on the path. So get your get ’em girl shoes on and Naomi Campbell walk because you did the damn thing today.

Never let the thought of the beast keep you from embracing it. Getting into beast mode is what will get you to your goal. It’s the fire you have inside pushing you to where you want to be.

Plus, being in beast mode is just temporary. We don’t walk around sweating all day (I hope). No one curls 10-to-20-pound weights all the time. It’s something we do to achieve the goal. And if your goal is pretty, then you’re going to have to deal with the ugly.

How do you reconcile your inner beast with your need for beauty?

photo credit: Arya Ziai via photopin cc

Making the Boob Tube Your Ally

19 Feb
Decisions: Getting up to burn a few calories or snuggling on the couch with him.

Decisions: Getting up to burn a few calories or snuggling on the couch with him and my remote.

I learned early on in the fitness process that working out at home might not be in my best interests. If I planned on doing an exercise video, of course I would have to use my television. My television sat in my living room not eight feet from my couch. My couch has a fluffy throw blanket on it. And you know what’s hooked up to my TV? My DVR. How can I work out when I have a backlog of “The Vampire Diaries” to catch up on?

I began my journey in Atlanta, where the winters—at the time—weren’t too terrible and I had a car. I’ve continued my journey in New York, where 11 inches of snow is followed by subzero wind chills on gusty days. Living here, you tend to carry a lot of stuff with you because sometimes you just go where the day takes you and it’s good to be prepared. That can become a problem when I get impromptu drinks/dinner/party plans and I have a giant gym bag with me.

As I’ve said before on this blog, I sweat profusely. My clothes need to air out and dry. Leaving my drenched clothes at the office isn’t really an option for me, but how do I get a workout in and still be able to hang with my peeps later?

When I moved here, I brought with me a set of exercise DVDs I’d bought from an infomercial (don’t judge me). I barely used them in Atlanta figured they’d get equal use here. Then the winter doldrums came, as did the pounds, and I needed something else to do. My gym is closed on the weekends, there’s waist-high snow on the ground and I needed to burn some calories. So I cleared some space in the living room and popped in the DVD. It was only 30 minutes, much less time than I’d spend on run. But I was sweating so badly when it was over. My towel got great use and my glass of water was gone. And did I mention it was only 30 minutes.

That necessity for change sparked something that I long thought impossible. I am a self-confessed couch potato. I like curling up in a corner of my sofa with a blanket, book and remote control. I binge-watched “House of Cards” this past weekend because it’s something I like to do. But I also took 30 minutes out of my day to burn a few calories.

Most experts will tell you that you need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Well, there you have it. It will take you more time to shower and pick out your clothes for the day than to do some exercise videos. But that’s not all you can—or should—do.

There are plenty of exercises you can compile into a half hour. Try doing sets of different exercises. A combination of jumping jacks, hip hikes, crunches, squats and lunges. Do a few reps of each and then repeat the set. There, 30 minutes and you’ve done some work.

Just remember that staying active is only half the battle to losing or maintaining your weight. And while 30 minutes is a good pat on the back, you should try to challenge yourself to do more. But don’t let the winter blues get you down in the process.

Begin at the Beginning: Breakfast

17 Feb
The best part of waking up was this in my cup. Trust.

The best part of waking up was this in my cup. Trust.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At least, that’s what all the cereal commercials told me as a kid. I never really appreciated that until I  began my weight-loss journey. A well-known fact about me, especially among family and friends, is that I don’t do hunger well. I can be ornery on the best of days. When I’m hungry, I’m an outright asshole. I just accept it as a personality quirk (as should everyone else).

However, when you’re working out all the time, you need to fuel the body. I can burn well over 1,000 calories a day through extensive cardio exercise on top of my regular daily activities. When I began my weight-loss journey I would sometimes forget to grab a banana or a yogurt before leaving the house. Eventually that came back to bite me—and whomever was in my vicinity.

I quickly learned if I didn’t want to conk out, I had to have something in my stomach. What took a while to sink in was that a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich with a two giant glasses of orange juice were going to slow down my progress. I was going HAM on the breakfast plate.

What I needed was moderation. When I began doing the “Extreme Fat Smash Diet,” I had to tone down my meals. Gone were the days of a couple of bowls a cereal, toast and two giant glasses of OJ (I like my orange juice—sue me). The plan some days required just one egg and a cup of juice, hurting the pride of my inner Vitamin C addict. I’ve said before that the diet was strict and that cutting back on how much I ate in the morning was a big step.

It’s not so much that I was a fan of breakfast. It’s just that if I was going to have it, then I needed to have the works. The plan didn’t allow for that. The miniature meals plus the extensive cardio routine made me feel like I was headed into trouble. Would I be eating too little? The answer was no. By eating a small meal at the start of my day, I was basically revving up my body to do the work required for the rest of the day. It didn’t matter if I was working out at the beginning or the end of the day. Breakfast was keeping me focused, both at work and at the gym.

That was a good thing. I don’t like to go all “Hulk smash” on people, especially on an empty stomach. No one deserves that kind of treatment.

I know what a busy morning we all have, especially of late. If your area is anything like mine, you’ve had to traverse icy sidewalks, driveways and streets. You’ve had to layer up, adding more time to your morning routine. These time additions can make you want to put other things to the side, possibly breakfast. I strongly urge you not to do that. Instead, maybe wake up 15 minutes earlier. Grab something you can eat in the car or on the way to the subway stop, like a  granola bar or a yogurt. Make time for the things that are important to you and for you.

How do you adjust your routine for the things that are important to you?

photo credit: sweetbeetandgreenbean via photopin cc

Small Steps, Big Mountains

12 Feb
mountain climb

While climbing, stop every once in a while to appreciate how far you’ve come.

I think everyone has a bucket list. My list contains travel destinations. Most of my travel has been right here in these United States. But I got my passport for a reason, and it has only one stamp in it. Right now my top five destinations are Venice, Capetown, Fiji, Paris and Rio.

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to cross out Rio because I’m going…for Carnival! I’m super excited. Rio and Carnival have been on my bucket list for years, and now I’m finally reaching my goal.

Sometimes I wish I had been more focused on achieving some of my goals, other times I think complacency has worked for me. Complacency allowed me to appreciate what I have and the work I’d done so far. No, I hadn’t gone to Rio yet, but I had some awesome trips to Cancun and Puerto Rico. The same thing can happen on your weight-loss journey. You may not have lost all 50 of those pounds, but 30 is an amazing achievement. What I’ve found is that you can’t have blinders on as you go on this adventure; you’ll miss out on a lot.

At first, my goal was to lose an undetermined amount of weight before Puerto Rico. I lost about 20 before I got on the plane and my travel buddy saw me. She was more excited by appearance than I was. While I hadn’t set a firm goal for myself, the progress I was making showed me that I could do more than what I had so far. I couldn’t appreciate the little victory because it was, in my mind, a small step up a big mountain.  What I didn’t realize then was that it was still a step.

I’ve written before on this blog about perception vs. reality in terms of how others see you. One of the obstacles you’re going to have to overcome on your journey is facing your own perception. You may not be able to see all of the progress you’ve made, but you can feel it. You can feel how easily you breathe when climbing a flight of steps. You can feel your muscles working to curl the 8-pound weights when you started with the 3-pounders.

Along your journey you’ll have to learn to appreciate the small victories. One of the first for me came from a Facebook photo.  A couple of summers ago, I’d made some friends who were commenting on old photos on my page. When I replied that I didn’t look the same, I was asked to post some new pics. Jump to that weekend while out celebrating a friend’s birthday, I posted a club photo. It was posted in the middle of the night, the photo was slightly grainy and I was posed a little awkward (my days of “Top Model” viewing did not come in handy at two in the morning). The next day I awoke to dozens of likes and comments, all praising my “new” look. I didn’t know what to make of it, because I had grown used to the slimmed-down frame that was still 10 pounds away from goal weight.

What happened to me happens to a lot of people trying to lose weight. It’s the whole “a watched pot doesn’t boil” thing. You’re too wrapped up in the big goal, that you can’t appreciate the little victories you’ve achieved along the way.

Hard work is key to achieving your goal, and I don’t knock anyone who accepts that. My advice is to occasionally take a break, sit back and think about how far you’ve come. With determination, you’ll get to the top of your mountain and still appreciate the minor victories along the way.

photo credit: TroyMason via photopin cc

Biggest Losers and Winners

10 Feb
photo courtesy of NBC

photo courtesy of NBC

Last week, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” crowned the winner of its 15th season, Rachel Frederickson. Congrats, Rachel! Along with your $250,000 payout, you also win: criticism!

Rachel, who is 24 years old, dropped an astounding 155 pounds from her 5-foot-4 frame to weigh in at 105 pounds. When she was announced the winner, Rachel was met with this reaction by the trainers.

*I wouldn’t call her weight-loss disturbing (unless I had other information), but I’ll get to that later

You’d expect those faces from upset competitors, not the people who were helping you along the way.

Had Rachel lost too much weight?

The reactions were semi-justified. When Rachel left the competition, she was 150 pounds. She returned after dropping another 45 pounds, therefore losing 60% of her body weight for the show. To put that in perspective, past winners have dropped an average of 48.6%.

I have my own issues with the format for “The Biggest Loser.” I appreciate any venue that allows people to address health issues. I’d appreciate them even more if they were addressed an a healthy manner. The show isn’t practical, as most reality competitions aren’t. We don’t all lip sync for our lives or design dresses out of garbage to get a leg up in life. “The Biggest Loser” takes people’s health issues and makes a game out of it, which I find unnerving. It is unrealistic for Jane Shmo to expect to drop that amount of weight in such a short period of time without causing serious damage to herself.

The other problem I have with the show is that the feats performed by the contestants aren’t sustainable. No one works out for eight to 10 hours a day and survives on kale smoothies. People have jobs, kids, mortgages and other responsibilities. It is highly unlikely for even the above average person to sustain workouts of that intensity coupled with diets so low-cal that rabbits gawk.

Which brings me back to Rachel. I applaud her efforts. She’s a young woman who wanted to get her life back on track, starting with her weight. She said she’d been stress eating after a bad breakup (I can relate) and joined the show to get a fresh start. Kudos to her.

But Rachel is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Society has judged her for being overweight. Society has judged her for taking her struggle public on a reality show. Then society has decided to add a little more judgement because now she may have lost too much weight.

If you’re concerned with BMI results, then she’s slightly underweight. But that’s all relative. BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass, water weight and activity level. It’s just a guideline.

When she appeared on the “Today” show to discuss her results, she was greeted with low-ball questions, none addressing her the criticism she’s received for her drastic weight loss. But is that necessary?

I don’t want to shame her results because that would make me a hypocrite. She was a swimmer in her youth, so she had an athletic background that helped her along the way. I am, however, curious as to what motivated her to go so far. What was it that pushed her to this level? Where did she find the time to do it?

Like many of you, I get a bad case of the I-don’t-wannas and have to find my motivation wherever I can. Rachel found hers within the show, but she took it to a heightened level, and that scares me sometimes. I don’t want to get so focused by my goals—be they weight, career, love life, etc.—that it makes me obsessed.

I hope that if she’s happy with the way she looks, she uses healthy measures to maintain it. Maintenance is the absolute hardest part of this process and it is the true test of will. I trust that you all will find the point that makes you happiest and keep up the good work to stay there.

BTWs: There has also been talk of whether Rachel had a little extra help to reach this point. Anything’s possible, but I don’t think so. She still has a little arm waddle when she waves. I just think she got super-focused on losing even more weight that she might not have seen where she was going.