Thursday, August 30, 2012

Motivational Thinking: I Have Many Skills

There are things I've started to tell myself to stay on track when things get hard or food gets tempting. In the past, being a stickler about having to do the same thing every day has caused me to lose large amounts of weight in the beginning, but resulted in a failure later on when I'm not able to continue measuring up to my own incredibly high standards. After all, no two days are the same, so if you limit yourself to certain behaviors performed in an exact order every day, there's only so long you can carry on before you start to feel trapped by the process. The key difference here is that I've been educating myself on how to be more active and how to supplement the Nutrisystem program so that if I do have to adjust, I have more options for strategies and solutions at my finger tips. This time around, I'm allowing myself to be more flexible and adopting a "slow and steady wins the race" mentality so that I can focus on lasting life-style changes rather than yo-yoing down so fast that I fail to maintain the weightloss and shoot up higher than I was in the first place. It's the difference between Jedi and Sith training.

So without further ado, here are some of my go-to motivational mantras:
  • You can sleep in, but then you have to go to the gym after work and work twice as hard.
  • You never regret going to the gym, but you do regret not going.
  • If you want to eat off of your specific diet plan, then PLAN how you're going to do it so that you're not undoing the hard work you've done. On these "indulgence" days, you MUST go to the gym. 
  • If you're dreading your typical boring workout, you don't have to do it. BUT! You do have to go to the gym and take a class.
  • If you have a setback, let it go and move forward. You're not going to undo a mistake by harping on the past. The only thing that will undo a setback is what you DO in the present and plan to do in the future. 
  • What do we say to the god of giving up?
Buy this print on Society Six

Those are just a few of the sentiments I've been using to push myself through rough spots. If you have more that you use to keep your motivation up, please feel free to post them in the comments!

Monday, August 27, 2012

NY Ren Faire Boss: Defeated!

This past week has been extremely fun, stressful, and awesome.

This was the countdown to my first mini goal: 20 lbs lost by the time I went to the Renaissance Faire so I could enjoy my new garb and feel like I looked better than I did last year in all the pictures. For a while there, I was losing only 2 lbs a week and I wasn't sure if I would make it, but I did see the differences taking effect in my body so I knew I could be proud of that if I didn't make it. This past week was also the first time I ate off the plan because I've sorta started dating someone and it's hard to do that when you have all your meals on Nutrisystem. I've really done my best to stay on track, but rather than go to the gym every day, I went 5 days and did a ton of walking on the others.

P.S. The guy is awesome and totally supportive of my journey. Tall, handsome, intelligent, funny as hell, loves musicals- WHERE DID HE COME FROM? ANNE PLANET? We had SO much fun on our first date walking around Greenwich Village, going to Forbidden Planet, the Halloween store, and eating sushi. YUM. Who knows? This one could be a keeper, methinks. ;) I digress.

On the stressful side of the spectrum, I had some emotional issues to deal with concerning a huge fall-out with the artistic director of the theater company I have been supporting and working for over the last two years. I won't use any names to protect the integrity of those involved and the future of the company, but I will say that I was ultimately was fired from the company for things I didn't do. There was a huge embarrassing confrontation started by the director in front of the entire cast and the audience at our last performance. I was very hurt and upset by the unjust accusations made by his loose cannon behavior. He's a manic depressive who doesn't take his medication because he feels it stifles his creativity and he just decided to turn on me for absolutely no reason at all and spread slanderous remarks about me as a person and a professional. I'm sure you can understand why I'd be so hurt given the circumstances of my dismissal from the company. Normally, I would have turned to food for some comfort but I just told myself that I'd only be more upset if I undid all of the hard work I've put in. You can't control what other people do or how they treat you. You can only control your own behavior and reactions. As hard as it was, I did conquer the urge to "carb it up" for comfort.

Even so, I've been far less stringent this week and while I've been proud of the choices I've made, I was really concerned that I would see negative results on the scale come weigh in day.

So, you can imagine how surprised I was when I weighed in Saturday morning and discovered that I'd lost 4 lbs this week! I surpassed my 20-lbs-lost goal by one pound which was really exciting and I proved to myself that even when life throws in some curve balls, I can still make good choices. 

With all this in mind, I recommitted to losing 10 more pounds before New York Comic Con in October and I stood by that new goal while attending the Ren Faire, even though it would have been easier to celebrate with a cheat day. Those of you who have been to a faire before know that it's filled with delicious turkey legs, chocolate dipped cheese cake, and all matter of tempting distractions. This year, they also had my greatest weakness, pulled pork sandwiches (/swoon). Two of my friends got them and I was so envious, but I stuck to my guns at got the cheese, veggie, and fruit plate with crackers. I was actually pretty shocked to see the portions of everything that was served in general, even my dish. I've been so used to having everything "perfectly portioned for weight loss." All around me, people were eating gargantuan meals large enough for two or even three people and thinking nothing of it. That being said, I really enjoyed my grapes and cheese and carrots. I skipped on the crackers and handed off half of the cheese to a friend who was still hungry. Later I treated myself to about a half cup of lemon ice, which was delicious and refreshing in the intense heat, and again passed off the remainder to friends once I felt I'd gotten the good of it. This whole "passing off to friends" thing is working wonders when it comes to eating off  of the Nutrisystem plan because I just get food out of my face when I know I'll be tempted to snack on it after I've already filled up. The whole day was really fun and I spent money I'd normally spend on food on accessories for my Ren Faire outfit.
Owly Images

After we got in the car, we were going over pictures from the day and everyone wanted to see the "before" photo from last year's fair and match it up with this year's picture. It was really cool to see the differences, even the subtle ones, so I compiled the two photos together so you can see them side by side. Sadly they're not the same size, but then again, neither am I! 

Let me know how you like my improved costume! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eating Out on a Diet? Challenge Accepted

So last night was my first time eating out for dinner and I was sort of nervous for it after 6 weeks of sticking 100% to my Nutrisystem diet with no cheating. Normally, I'm an all or nothing gal. Yoda taught me well. Do or do not, THERE IS NO TRY! Yet, I know that kind of thinking is not sustainable when it comes to diet and exercise. You have to develop a sense of flexibility and some faith in your willpower to continue to make healthy choices going forward no matter what you might have done the night before. Most importantly, if you fall off the wagon, you can't just kill all the younglings and succumb to The Dark Side again. You have to forgive yourself and just do better the next time. Torturing yourself about your troubled past isn't going to help you towards a brighter future. I'm lookin' at you, Xena.

All I can say is that I felt ready for the challenge and I put myself in control. Here are the Jedi mind tricks I used to help ensure the success of my mission. 
  • I was going on a date, so I chose where we were going to eat so that I knew it would be both affordable and that I'd be able to find something healthy to eat.
  • When I got up, I went to the gym. I knew that if I was treating myself to great food later that I needed to pay the toll at the gym in the morning.
  • We got sushi. If I could have had brown rice in my sushi I would have been happier but I knew between Miso soup and the healthier roll choices, I'd be able to land right within the right amount of calories for my dinner.
  • How did I know how many calories were in the rolls? I researched them. Instead of getting there and just hoping I was making good choices, I researched the ingredients of all my favorite sushi rolls and based on the varying results, I put together a "high-end" estimate of what things would be and made decisions that would put me right between 230-260 calories. 
  • I stuck with it! I made my selections at home and I stuck to my plan when I got to the restaurant. I didn't feel guilty AT ALL (yay!) and I enjoyed EVERY BITE knowing that I'd done the work and I knew what I was doing and I'd made a concious effort to enjoy my favorite cuisine in a healthy, portion concious way.
  • The result: I'm back on my Nutrisystem plan today with no problem and no guilt nipping at my heels!

Hope my experience can help others to make good choices when their faced with this pivotal moment in their journey! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

HIIT Training? Is That What Hit-Girl Does?

So for those of you who have been following along with my blog entries, you'll know that there is this trainer named Heather at my gym who drives me crazy because she keeps coming up to me and trying to get me to do a free personal training session with her (presumably because she wants to interest me in buying a series of sessions with her that I cannot afford).

AS ANNOYING as her constant hounding is when I'm in the middle of my workouts, the other day she asked me if I had a few minutes and she took me through a short HIIT workout on the stationary bicycle. I had no idea what "interval training" was at the time, but now I'm fascinated by it. SO I wanted to share this with all of you and maybe you can try it out yourselves.

What is HIIT?
It's an enhanced form of interval training where you alternate between short intense exhausting periods of anaerobic exercise and less intense recovery periods. These cardio/conditioning workouts should last between 20-30 minutes and have a LOT of benefits including increased fat burning capacity, improved athletic capacity, and improved glucose metabolism.

Why should I try it?
HIIT is a perfect way to maximize the effectiveness of a short workout. In most workouts, fat burning happens after a period of about 30 minutes, but HIIT is different in that respect. This workout increases the amount of calories you burn DURING the session and AFTER because it increases the length of time it takes your body to recover. In layman's terms, it forces your metabolism to ramp up during the next 24 hours and you burn fat and calories more efficiently during that time. It's a workout that keeps working after you've completed it. LIKE MAGIC. :) The other benefit is that it mimics the kinds of things that happen in real life, i.e. there aren't many situations where you have to run 5 miles, but there are times when you have to sprint to catch your train or climb a flight of stairs to make it to an appointment on time. This sort of training should make that sort of thing easier.

What's the catch?
It might be a shorter workout, but you HAVE to push yourself way past your comfort zone. You have to go as fast and hard as you possibly can during the High Intensity periods. You can't be lazy about it or it won't work. You'll know you're doing it right if you're really feeling the burn in your muscles as they are deprived from oxygen and the sweat is pouring off of you.

How do I do it?
You can do this exercise on a stationary bike, an elliptical (my personal favorite), or on the treadmill or just running outside. You'll need to be able to read your heart-rate to make make you're doing it correctly and you'll also need a timer or the clock on the machine to help you transition between the phases. Check out this chart to see where your heart rate should fall in both the anaerobic and low intensity phases of the workout.

  • Start with five minutes of warm-up.
  • Phase 1. 30secs-1min of high intensity. On the elliptical I push the resistance up to 20 and do what feels like trudging through drying cement as fast as I can.
  • Phase 2. 2-3 minutes of low intensity recovery. Don't stop, though. Keep moving.
  • Phase 1. 30secs-1min of high intensity.
  • Phase 2. 2-3 minutes of low intensity recovery. Don't stop!
  • Keep alternating for 20-30 minutes.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes.

DISCLAIMER: I'm NOT an expert but I really think more people who are interested in weight-loss need to learn about HIIT. This gives you a general idea of what to do, but make sure you do your own research online or ask a trainer at your gym to explain it to you. The benefits just seem too amazing to ignore. HIIT may not be for everyone and you should know what you're getting into before you start it. It is a very grueling workout, but it's a nice way to mix things up if things are getting stale and I burn way more calories doing this for 30 minutes than I do in 45 minutes of endurance cardio on the elliptical. I've started to alternate HIIT with endurance training to allow my body time to recover between sessions and it definitely keeps things interesting.

I haven't weighed myself since adding HIIT in my own workout routines over the last week, but I'm looking forward to my weigh in on Saturday to see if it's had a good affect.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Live Long and Zumba

So I've been killing myself at the gym. Not in a negative way, but after going to the gym every day for a week with two 35 minute days and 5 days of two hour workouts, I was surprised to find that I had barely lost 2 lbs. I suppose I was expecting a bit more considering my weight and the initial shock my body went through. When I first started my diet, I lost very quickly (8 lbs in my first week!), which is common so I know I can't continue to expect results like that anymore. Obviously I'm sticking with it and I know that I'm on track because the guidelines for Nutrisystem (the diet system I'm using to learn portion control and nutritional balance) says we should be losing 1-2 lbs per week on the program, but considering I've been working out far more than suggested, I wanted to see better results.

In any case, I decided to mix up my exercise today and take a Zumba class. I was sort of nervous about it because I hate comparing myself to other people or feeling like I'm constantly messing something up. AND! I hate people talking to me while I work out... or looking at me. Ha. I'm sort of messed up like that. I've spent so much time imagining myself as a superhero that when I'm confronted by my conflicting image in a dance studio mirror I die a little inside. BUT! I decided to challenge myself and do something I've never done since it's my day off. So, I got to the gym early and did a 25 minute brisk walk on the treadmill before the 55 minute class. It wasn't awful, but I just felt sluggish and frustrated a lot of the time by my inability to keep up with all the fancy footwork. Honestly, my biggest issue is that I'm rather well endowed in the chest area and its really uncomfortable to jump up and down with two bowling balls hanging off your chest. I already wear two sports bras at once, but it just doesn't work. I ordered some new ones so hopefully they'll help out. Anyways, I just went with it and kept moving. 

I'm proud I didn't give up, and I was certainly covered in sweat by the end of the class, but I'm not sure that I'll make that particular class a staple of my fitness routine. However, I did decide that I should try to take one group class a week just to break up the monotony. After class, I did 48 minutes on the elliptical whilst watching Firefly and then had a relaxing stretching session before walking back to my apartment.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time to Turn a Critical Failure Into a Nat 20

I'm ready for this journey. I know it will be hard and long (that's what she said... Hehe...), but it NEEDS to happen! How to make it happen? That's another story. Clearly nothing I've tried so far has worked, so I'm taking a different approach. 

First of all, I started Nutrisystem at the beginning of June. It's supposed to be very good for teaching portion control and balanced diets as well as encouraging many smaller meals/snacks throughout the day. Apparently that's great for your metabolism. So far it's gone really well and the weightloss from just following the new meal plan has been very motivating. 

Rather than focus on a final goal, I'm going to create mini milestone goals as I go so that the overachiever in me does not completely lose her shit.

My first goal is to lose 20 lbs by the August 26th because that's when I'm going to  the Renaissance Fair here in NY. It's a huge occasion for me and my friends every year and it's especially fun because we go in costume. Last year I bought my very own Ren Fair garb and although I felt amazing and full of fantasy and fun in it last year, I would really like to see a positive change in my physical appearance this year. I've already lost nearly 15 lbs so reaching my goal is certainly not out of the question, but I just have to stay on target. Here's a picture of me from last year! Hopefully this year I'll look EVEN MORE super fabulous!

My next goal is to lose 30 lbs by October 11th, which will mark my first cosplay experience at New York Comic Con (yet another geeky staple of my social calendar). I've always wanted to go in costume, but I have this crazy fear of being labeled the "fat version" of a beloved character or having people post hateful meme pictures of me on the internet and mocking me for all time. I know I shouldn't worry about that stuff. The internet is the internet and that will never change, but that's why I chose Appa, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I'm doing an anthropomorphic version of this character (a giant flying sky bison). Yes, I'd like to do a human character, but until I have enough confidence in my appearance, I'm happy portraying this large fluffy character. Hopefully I'll be looking a little more svelte by then so I can really do majestic Appa justice. :)

I've been going to the gym every day for the past week and steadily improving my endurance. I even started doing weight training which is fairly new to me. As much as I hate being a sweaty ugly beast on the elliptical, I power through it by watching episodes of Firefly. I'll probably move on to Avatar when I finish that show so that I can get in the mood for my cosplay. I am also paying a lot more attention to stretching after every work out and returning to some of the yoga training I did in college. I actually LOVE that feeling I get when I finish and roll up my spine and just breath. I remember in movement class when we'd do this at the end of our warm-up, the teacher would say, "Don't adjust yourself. Don't look at yourself in the mirror. Just stand tall and accept everything in this moment. Just breath." I always hear that in my head when I finish and as corny as it is, it really helps me accept my progress every day.

As an actor, I can really feel the changes in my work. I'm just more connected with my body than I've been in a long time and right now I'm getting a chance to see that in my performance in A Midsummer Night's Dream which opens on Tuesday. I'm hoping to break many legs and give a fully embodied performance of Bottom, which is my first lead role in a while.

Sometimes I hate what I see in the mirror or I wish the whole process would just be over with. I'm a bit of an over achiever and I've struggled with anorexia and bulimia before so it's hard to accept the healthy rate of 1-2 lbs per week. No matter what I do, I seem to see a whale in the mirror.
I need to preface this next part by saying that my parents would do ANYTHING to support me and see me succeed and find joy in life. I love them and I wouldn't be able to afford my subscription to Nutrisystem or gym membership without them. That said, this next part of my story involves coming clean about what was said to me when I was younger about my weight and how the comments that were made affected me. The only reason I'm sharing this is because I now have a WONDERFULLY close relationship with them now and I know so many people who have struggled with weight from a young age will relate and learn from the scars that made me the way I am today. My mom and dad have always been worried about my health (and with good reason), but sometimes when I was younger it felt like an attack. These "concerns" and "attacks" made me hate myself- not that it was the only thing but every time my weight was mentioned I felt abnormal. I felt ugly and inadequate and like I'd never be good enough to be fully loved. I realize that a lot of this had more to do with me than it did to do with them. They were just looking out for me and they were understandably desperate to save me from following the path I ended up taking. Sometimes hurtful or insulting things were said to me were said in desperation and frustration and even though they weren't always kind, they were said because they loved me. One that stayed with me was "you're so overweight I don't know what to do with myself." Even now, on a bad day I can hear that sentence in my head and it fills me with shame.

My dad is a caterer and an amazing chef but he definitely tried to feed the family healthy food. We didn't visit fast food joints and we didn't keep a ton of sweets in the house. When I felt depressed, I would find ways to binge eat- either out with my friends or on my own. I would go and buy tons of candy bars or a carton of ice cream and drown my sorrows in CRAZY amounts of junk food. I'm totally ashamed of it, but I know I'm not alone. There are so many people who do this in order to cope with depression or stress. Looking back at pictures that were taken back in middle school, I really couldn't have been more than 10-15 lbs overweight at the time, but I let all of the more abusive feedback I was getting from my family and the pressure of going through puberty put all sorts of demons in my head. Really, I was a beautiful child who lived an active lifestyle. I played soccer and did figure skating and enjoyed the outdoors as well. Sometimes it makes me furious to realize that succumbing to those small insipid comments began my journey of self loathing and abuse that led me to anorexia, bullemia, and binge eating that lasted 12 years and packed on over 100 pounds.

 That being said, our country CLEARLY has to work on how we deal with childhood obesity. It's an undeniable epidemic. When I look back on my relationship with food and with my weight, I wonder how I would have handled it if I were the parent. It seems like an impossible task- you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't! How do you let a child know they need to be healthier without making them feel like a failure. How do you motivate them when places like the gym are intimidating and make them feel like a "special case" since no one else their age has to go there?

Anyways, the short and long is that it's still nearly impossible for me to recognize progress purely from looking in the mirror because of my rampant negative self image. I'm hardwired to see my inadequacies. So when I get down on myself, I have started to ask one question. "Have I done everything I can to live healthily today." If the answer is yes, then I try to move on and stop harping on myself about it. If it's no, then try my best to think of something healthy I can ACTIVELY do before the day is out, and most importantly, I commit to doing it.

There's only one problem at the gym. This trainer named Heather keeps approaching me about personal training whenever she sees me working out. I can't help but feel that she wouldn't have approached me if I weren't so overweight. I don't see her walking up to anyone else. I suppose I'm just one of those people who really hates anyone TALKING to me when I work out, but more than that I hate being solicited. I know that Heather's heart is in the right place. She probably really WANTS to help me, but I just can't stand that she continues to approach me and ask me to do certain exercises for her. I took her card to be polite. I don't know. Am I over reacting? I've gotten to the point where I dread going to the gym sometimes because I don't want her to hunt me Hunger Games style.