Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Final post

Like Jenny, I want that COMPLETE stamp! Time to wrap it up.

It's been a weird couple of days since the PCP formally ended. I've had to resist the temptation to weigh my meals, I've been on a bit of a sugar bender, and I've eaten a couple of things that have made me sick. Not seriously sick, just stomachache sick, don't-need-to-eat-that-again sick. Patrick has been assuring us all that we won't want some of the bad stuff we used to eat, but I've been skeptical. I thought my old, bad habits were pretty damn ingrained and that I would probably just slide right back into them as soon as the 90 day framework was over. I am proud (?) to say that I've tried to readopt some of my old habits, just to see what it's like, and I really, really don't want to eat the way I used to eat anymore. I think it's going to be so much easier because I'm not trying to enforce some external "ideal" of what I "should" eat, but I'm going to be eating what I actually want: good, healthy, fresh food. Today I reverted right back to my standard PCP lunch, which was so delicious -- grilled chicken, avocado, tomatoes, whole grain tortilla.

I have to be honest here and say that my final pictures make me pretty happy but not entirely satisfied. I started off so very far from fit, there's only so much that can be done in 90 days.

This picture is from last summer, sitting on my parents' porch watching my daughter play in her baby pool. I was looking around for something that showed my body better, but I was pretty good at avoiding cameras then. But I see the softness in my shoulders and arm, the roll of my belly, and my thick legs and hips. I also see that I'm slouching and I'm kind of wrapping myself up, trying to hide.

And here I am today. Three months ago, I could not have imagined posing for a picture with this small amount of clothing on. If you look back through my Flickr stream, my early weekly photos show me wearing pants because I just did NOT do shorts. I ran 2 5K races last year in pants. And now here I am, in my favorite new workout shorts -- because I don't have to hike them up when I do creep and floor jumps.

My delight is somewhat tempered because I still have some work to do -- I don't look at my final pictures and see my ideal shape... just yet. But I'm going to focus on what I've accomplished in the last 3 months, which is more than I ever imagined. I have:

Eaten vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I've always liked vegetables, but I used to kind of forget about them. Now, a meal doesn't seem complete without them.

Remembered how good eggs & milk can be. Again, something I just kind of forgot about.

Learned a new way to cook. Go to the store or the farmers' market and buy what looks good and in season! Whatever's in the fridge, just cook it and eat it! Recipes and cookbooks are fun for special occasions, but day in and day out, that amount of planning and work just weighs you down (literally). I now know how to shop and prepare simple, good food for daily consumption and it's really nice to be able to take care of myself this way.

Finished something I started. This is huge. I'm great at beginning projects, at getting instruction books and buying lots of exciting supplies and reading up on new ideas. Then, a few weeks in, when my enthusiasm starts to wane or when things get hard, I usually quit. Not this time. I can take this one waaaaay beyond the PCP.

Woken up at 5:30 am for days on end to work out. Uh, who am I again?

Learned to focus on the company and the setting when going out to eat. Restaurants are fun because someone else is doing the work and has created a nice place for you to relax and enjoy whoever you're with. Going out to eat is much more enjoyable when it happens infrequently and with people you don't get to see often, rather than just as a default setting when you don't feel like cooking.

Lost 20 pounds on the scale and 1 or 2 dress sizes. I was just about bursting out of my size 12 jeans when I started this program, and I absolutely refused to buy bigger clothes. Two days ago, I tried on some size 8 pants and they slid right on.

Become a better parent. I have more energy and more strength to do things with my very active two-year-old now. Parenting requires a lot of physical strength! Try bending down to pick up a 25-pound child while carrying two bags of groceries and a diaper bag. Oops, she dropped her sippy cup! Bend over -- with allll of that stuff and the kid -- and pick it up off the floor. Thank you, floor jumps and squats. Plus, I'm just in a better mood more often, so I can be silly and play with her more instead of getting frustrated about every little thing. I want her to have happy memories of our times together, not mom shoveling cookies in her mouth or being irritable and exhausted.

Some thank-yous are in order. First, my husband, Alex.

(This was the look on his face when I told him I was cutting out salt.) He'll be the first to tell you he was initially skeptical about this program. Who is this dude in Japan and what kind of cult are you joining? But I told him that I had done my research and thought this would be the right thing for me, and he said he'd support me. And he did it, every step of the way, from taking Maya to the playground so I could work out, to his solo meals for the 7 weeks (I think) that I ate apple & egg white for supper, to encouraging me to keep going even when I was deep in the PCP Valley and hating everything, to nodding appreciatively when I showed off my biceps. He saw the results and he saw that what I was doing was sane and sustainable. He posts on Facebook maybe 4 times a year, and here's what he posted on Monday:

I have to give my wife her props.
For 3 months she got up at 5:30 am, worked out for an hour, stayed true to a strict diet, kept the house and the kiddo together, wrote magazine articles, dj'd and...(if this weren't enough) in the process looks even more gorgeous than before!
Madam, I tip my hat!

Really sweet. Thanks, babe.

I also have to say thank you to my parents, especially my mom, who has been through a weight-loss journey of her own in the past year and was very inspiring. One of the reasons we moved home to Louisville from New York was so that Maya could spend more time with her grandparents, and I'm so grateful that my parents take good care of themselves and are able to do things with her. I hope they'll be able to take her swimming and to "bouncy castle madness" for a long time to come.

Thanks also to my friends who followed my progress on Facebook and in person and cheered me on. You don't know how much it meant to me!

And of course -- Team SEXAAAAAY. I am so grateful to have met you all and to have shared this experience with you. The social support aspect of this program really knocked my socks off -- anyone can make changes in their diet or exercise, but having those other people there to pick you up when you're down makes a TREMENDOUS difference. I was always surprised, too, by how much I helped myself when I reached out to someone else to help them. I always felt connected to you, wherever we were around the globe, jumping rope together. Please keep in touch as you can.

Thank you to Chen, who I presume is back there somewhere, calming devising our weekly grams and giggling to himself about putting creep and floor jumps together on the same day.

And Patrick. Oh, Patrick. Opening a can of whoop-ass when needed, offering a calm "don't worry about it" when needed. It's wonderful to have an adviser who not only knows about the physical stuff but the mental stuff too. You're doing good work in the world. It's been a pleasure, sir.

To the teams behind us: keep going and finish strong! I'll be watching you! You're going to be so glad you finished this, no matter where you wind up. To anyone considering doing this program: this is the real deal. It's not a gimmick, it's not a cult, it's not a waste of time or money. But you may experience serious inner change, so be ready for that.

This is not the end of my journey, by any means. I'm enjoying my little break right now, but I've still got some work to do. I think tomorrow is a good day to pick up the jump rope again, and maybe hit up a yoga class. But I have knowledge now -- knowledge about what my body needs, and knowledge about what I can accomplish. Love you all. Bye for now.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 90: Wow

So it's Day 90. I had my usual PCP breakfast this morning and am just getting started on revising my magazine piece that's due tomorrow. I don't really feel all that different from yesterday, except I know that I've got to do a workout later that's probably not going to kill me. :-)

Actually, this is one very important thing I've learned: none of these workouts have killed me. I've felt very tired, very sore, and sometimes not very excited about working out, but nothing really bad has ever happened because I worked out. It sounds kind of silly when I write it down like this, but I think it's important to remember. Every day that I work out is an investment in my health and my future, and although it's been really hard at times, I've never thought afterward, "Well, that was a bad idea." I've only missed one workout over the course of 90 days (ONE!) and that was a day when I was pretty sick, so I rested instead -- and that was an incredible learning experience in itself, because I got better so quickly.

This is not the big sum-up post just yet. I still have a lot of thoughts to get in order, and I want to see what comes up for me when I'm not eating according to my little laminated sheet anymore. I can admit that I'm nervous about going out on my own and not counting everything. I think we've all known people who have lost a lot of weight and then, 6 months later, it's all back and then some. I'm not going to be that person. 6 months from now, I'm going to be in even BETTER shape than I am now. (Lucky for me, I still have some work to do!) But I know that in order to do that, I'm going to have to listen to my body and my mind in a way that I've never done before, not even during this 90-day program.

One thing that keeps coming up for me is an idea from Women, Food and God, a very interesting book that might be of benefit to anybody who's had issues with emotional eating. The author repeatedly goes back to the point that whenever you reach for food to handle emotions, you are telling yourself that you'll be destroyed by those emotions unless you eat something. And when you can be conscious enough to avoid that unnecessary eating, you are acknowledging that you won't be destroyed by whatever is bothering you, that you can deal with the emotions directly and you won't fall apart. For people who don't reach for food when they're upset, this may not make much sense. But I know that this is still an issue for me, even with all the knowledge I've gained about physiology and nutrition and exercise. The idea that I am emotionally strong enough to handle whatever comes up is very powerful, and it's helped me this week when I've been stressed out by a number of things. I know I'm going to continue working with this going forward.

In a way, I feel like it's helpful not to make TOO big a deal of "Day 90." Yes, I want to celebrate all of our hard work, and the fact that we ALL made it here! We have stuck with this program and more importantly, we have stuck together. That is incredibly valuable and I am so grateful to you all. I hope we can keep in touch a little bit too.

And on the other hand, it's just a Sunday in August. Summer is starting to fade and we're already talking holiday plans in my house. I have work to do, laundry to fold, and a child to raise. Life goes on.

Sending big PCP love to you all -- more soon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 89: A Swirl of Emotions

Several things are coming together this weekend to make me a little bit emotional. The PCP is ending, I have a big writing deadline Monday morning, my in-laws are visiting, I'm about to start my period -- there's a lot at once. But somehow I'm not freaking out. I'm just doing what I need to do and taking it one step at a time.

Today's workout was really tough, but I felt pretty good afterwards. I liked setting up my little stations to move from one exercise to the next. I felt kind of badass. I have constant problems with confidence, and I kept thinking to myself today, "Look at what you're doing! You are really strong!" I was so proud that I made that workout my BITCH.

And now my shoulders are killing me and my legs are talking to me a little bit. I'll probably be sore as hell in the morning.

And I'm very curious to know more about the special Day 90 workout, since I haven't seen it yet. I'm guessing it'll be 5 minutes of levitation, followed by bending a spoon with my mind. Am I right, Patrick?

I have a lot of thoughts about what this whole process has done for me, but not enough time to put them all down right now. I've got another busy day ahead of me tomorrow, so I need to get some sleep. Thinking of all my PCP pals tonight, as we start to move into the post-PCP world.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 88: A simple plan

Here's my simple plan for getting through 5 sets of any exercise:

Before first set: OK, this'll take a while, but I can get through it all.

After first set: No problem! Barely felt it.

After second set: Yikes, that's starting to hurt. I'm never going to make it through 5 sets. F*** it, I'm only doing three sets.

After third set: Ouch! But I'm going to feel bad if I wuss out after 3 sets. OK, fine I'll do four sets, but that's IT.

After fourth set: &*%^$! That hurts! But if I just do ONE MORE set, I'll be done. OK, fine.

After fifth set: Woo hoo! I did it!

Works every time. :-)

P.S. The "temporary" smaller pants I bought at the outlet mall in Florida a month ago are now huge in the waist. I officially have nothing to wear but jeans and yoga pants. Yay? Yay.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 87: Takeaway (Food)

It's mid-afternoon and I haven't done my workout yet -- not feeling great today. Allergies have risen up and my head is full of goo. Bluurrrrrrgh. Also sweating a couple of deadlines and nervous about the next few days in terms of work. It'll all be okay but I think I'm internalizing the anxiety and that's contributing to the headache. I had lunch, 20 minutes with my eyes closed, now a cup of tea while waiting for my husband to come home. He's going to take our daughter out for the afternoon, and then it's workout time for me.

I wanted to write a little bit about how my thoughts and actions regarding food have changed over the course of this 3 months, and what I plan to do going forward.

In the past couple of years, I've gotten more and more interested in the "where our food comes from" questions that are becoming so prevalent, at least here in the US. Reading The Omnivore's Dilemma really made me start to think differently. I also co-produced a series of radio essays written by an organic farmer outside of New York City, and talking with her about her life and work was really formative, too. New York is lucky to have so many great farms right outside the city, and a local food culture that values those farms, in the form of abundant farmers' markets and lots of restaurants that feature seasonal and local food. I've really started to see that eating locally is not only the most responsible thing to do for the planet, but it's a great way to invest in your own community and the other people who live there. And the food is way better than anything at the supermarket.

But when it came to my own daily meals, I've had trouble putting all of this knowledge into practice. I've always enjoyed cooking, but I'm definitely more of a cookbook & recipe person. I've always been amazed by people who can just put some things together and make a meal. I took a French cooking class a couple of years ago, which was incredibly helpful in terms of basic techniques. But I would still be stymied when I went to the farmers' market. I would buy beautiful things and then let them languish in my fridge for lack of ideas. (Which felt almost sacrilegeous, given how much hard work I knew went into producing them.) We joined a CSA one year (anyone who doesn't know -- you "subscribe" to a farm before the growing season, then get a weekly distribution of whatever is ready to harvest) and it was not a good experience. The whole pick-up was badly organized, nobody helped out like they said they would, and we got mountains of greens and turnips that we didn't know how to prepare.

Now that we're in Kentucky, I'm happy to see a vibrant local food culture here as well. There's a farmers' market within walking distance of my house, and I have a list in my kitchen of all the markets in town, organized by day of the week. So if it's Thursday and I need tomatoes, I can check the list to see what market is going on that day. There are a number of restaurants here that focus on local food -- in fact, there's a new one opening in the fall that will get 80% of its ingredients locally year round, which I think is rather daring. I even wrote a magazine article earlier this year about one of the leaders in the local food community.

When I started eating PCP meals, I knew that my regular meals wouldn't work anymore -- too hard to measure each category separately, and I couldn't figure out in advance how much was 100 grams of protein or whatever. So I started cooking reallllly simply -- meat, veg, pasta, rice, whatever. Just cooking. Whatever was in my fridge, I cooked it. I don't know why this was a "aha" moment for me, but it was. I hadn't figured out that you can just cook your food (or in some cases, like perfect cherry tomatoes, not even that) and it doesn't have to be a "recipe" or a "dish," it's just food. And all of a sudden, the local, seasonal, farmers' market way of eating finally made sense to me.

So yesterday I signed up for another CSA, this time through Grasshoppers Distribution, a very cool company here in town that aggregates products of local farmers and helps them find a market, whether direct-to-consumers through a CSA or to restaurants and institutions. For the next 12 weeks, we'll get 4-5 produce items, a dozen eggs, a half gallon of milk, and one rotating item like honey, maple syrup, gourmet mushrooms, salsa, and drinkable yogurt. (There are also options to add things like cheese, meat, and bread, but we're going to start with the basics first.) I had wanted to do this before, but frankly, we didn't eat that many eggs or drink that much milk, and I hated the idea of more beautiful produce going to waste because I didn't know what to do with it. We now easily go through a dozen eggs and half a gallon of milk a week (actually, we probably consume more), and I feel ready to cook up whatever produce I get. My whole family's eating habits have changed along with mine and I'm so excited about getting our first CSA distribution next week.

I just started reading another interesting book about eating locally, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. She's a novelist who also has a strong interest in the natural world, and she writes about the YEAR that her family spent only eating things that could be sourced locally, preferably from people they knew. Pretty challenging! Her daughter is craving fresh fruit in April, but there's no such thing in southern Virginia at that time of year -- until they find some early rhubarb at the farmers' market, then cook it up with some frozen apples from the year before. It really makes the most sense to eat this way -- the raspberries you get in February are produced at tremendous cost, and they aren't necessarily that good either. Plus, it's kind of nice to remember that we have seasons and certain things are only available at certain times of the year. Makes them more special.

Anyway, this turned into a longer post than I intended. Maybe I'm avoiding the creeps and floorjumps ahead for me today! (Really? Both on the same day? Damn, Patrick.) But I've been thinking about how my food habits have changed (are still changing) and how glad I am that what is good for my health is ALSO what my values support. And also the most delicious.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 86: Super!

I am surprised to say this, but I like super sets! More interesting to mix it up than just doing the same motion for 5 sets in a row. I felt tired but invigorated at the end of today's workout.

And doing planks to failure -- that was a revelation. I have had real issues, shall we say, with planks. So much emotion comes up, and it's so difficult to stay with the position, that I have struggled to keep up with the prescribed times. I watch that time tick away and watch my mind get louder and crazier, despite my efforts to breathe and stay focused and calm. So far I have been able to do maybe 60-80 seconds at a time, once or twice reaching 90 seconds under great duress. Today, I just set my stopwatch and then looked away, just because I was curious to see how long I could hold. Uh, first one was about 1:40 (and I think I probably could have gone longer, if I'm honest). OK, ok, I finally get it. Planks are a mental exercise, at least for me. This is hugely encouraging.

I would really love for my developing ab muscles to become visible, but they're still mostly hidden underneath my "wrinkly elephant belly," as Sarah put it. Things really never are the same after a baby, and that's okay. My amazing body gave me a fantastic kid, and if wrinkly elephant belly is the price I pay, I'll take it. But I'm interested to see how good I can make it. I can feel my abs underneath a layer of pudge, and they're pretty hard. Sometimes I just stand in the kitchen, poking my stomach joyfully and looking like a goof. I started out with more fat to lose, so there's still some work to be done in that area. It's coming, though!

Happy day 86, team! Starting to get nostalgic in advance for you guys.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 85: Ass, kicked

Wow, I asked my PCP buddies to bring it and it was brought. (Brung? Brang? Broughted?) Thank you all for such a delightful ass-kicking. If you have any further ass-kicking to share with me, I'll still take it. But your words helped me get through today's workout, and I only felt wrecked for about 20 minutes afterward, instead of hours.

Pistol squats followed by floor jumps are hard but kinda fun. I wasn't really sweating that much after my jump rope, but the waterworks started right after the floor jumps. At least floor jumps produce a nice breeze.

I had trouble finding failure on the shoulder fly. I did about 50 during the first set and then realized something wasn't happening correctly. I changed my distance from the wall, I adjusted my feet, I tried a wider or smaller range of motion, and I tried holding for a second at the point of highest tension. I still never really got to that point that I recognize as "failure" from some other exercises. So in the end, I just did a ton of them and will try to figure it out next time.

Damn, those ab exercises are tedious.

I am once again delighted by the general absence of anger, fear, or panic in my workouts. Boredom, difficulty, a little intimidation -- yes, yes, and yes. But I'm not feeling resentful or tearful or anything that I used to feel during a tough workout. If I can push myself and do all the reps, great. If I can't do all the reps, that's fine too -- that means I hit today's limit and that's a good thing. Whatever "today's limit" happens to be, that doesn't reflect on me as a person in any way. It's just where my body is today.

Time for lunch -- shrimp, avocado, cherry tomatoes, tortilla. Yummmmmmmmmm...