Monday, April 29, 2013

Willpower: Your Limited Mana Pool and You


All health choices ultimately come down to that one thing.

How badly do you want it and what are you willing to give up?

Every task, from work, to working out, to dealing with unpleasant social situations draws on the same resource; Willpower (or self control if you prefer). Lately, I've been struggling to manage my "limited mana pool," so to speak. 

For 11 months. I've turned down cupcakes and candy while watching others graze on them at will. I've woken up at 6 in the morning to make time for runs before work despite exhaustion. I've traded gaming time for gym time and the freedom of eating "wherever my friends want" for making sure that there will be something I can eat wherever we go.

Add in a very physical job that requires me to manage groups of 30 people from around the world for an hour at least three or four times a day. It requires me to walk at least 5 miles during the work day alone, and provide the best in customer service to over 1000+ guests a day.

Add in the emotional anniversary of the death of a friend.

Add in my stress over trying to figure out how to pursue my acting career in this new body.

Add in my boyfriend (one of my major rocks), moving back to Michigan for the summer.

The reason I'm listing all these stress factors is because it takes the same type of energy to behave like a mature, mentally and physically healthy adult in the face of all those hurdles despite how different they are.

Sometimes it really seems like the perfect storm, and despite the fact that I have been able to stay on track with my health goals, I've become slightly pugnacious, rude and confrontational in the face of my increased stress load. My fuse is the shortest it's ever been and I really don't like the person I'm becoming.

Seriously, I'm not far off from this:

Many whelps, guys. Many whelps.

Just think about your own life.

How many times have you had a really crappy or exhausting day and made a bad decision using your experience as an excuse?

I ran around the city all day getting ready for my big trip so I'll skip out on the gym because I'm exhausted.

My boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with me so I'll drown my sorrows in a pint of ice cream. 

I just had a really shitty day, so it's ok that I was short with my dad on the phone.

We've all been there. We're only human. Usually when we cave and make a bad decision or lash out aggressively it's because we aren't managing our mana pool efficiently. Then when we don't execute our plans perfectly, it feels like there's no point and more mistakes follow.

But what do we say to the god of death? 

Not today.

Even when the walls are caving in, you have to learn how to cope without relying on your old toxic habits or taking it out on the people around you. If you want to keep fighting for your health, you can't just throw up your hands and accept defeat. You need to change your tactics and evolve.

First, you have to accept that you cannot be perfect at everything all the time. You need to prioritize what you're going to excel at, what you're going to do well at, and what you're going to let go for the day.

It's sort of like prioritizing a kill order for mobs in a video game. Save the bigger spells for the the bigger bosses and get by with the smaller ones to take out the less threatening ones.

If you know you'll have an exhausting day at work, then choose a lighter workout, but plan to eat on your plan perfectly. If you know you'll be going out to a truly fabulous dinner with friends, give yourself a little more leeway if your diet execution has been stellar for the last few weeks, but go hard when it comes to the gym that morning so that you earn it. I usually try to get new personal records in my runs on these days or put in some extra time on attempting new yoga positions so that I can feel like I really accomplished something great.

NOTE: Don't go overboard on the whole "going out to eat with friends" social excuse. Generally, I've been giving myself one day a week where I don't have to meet my deficit on fitbit if there's a significant social occasion, like a birthday. Try to plan things so that treats are just that; TREATS. You don't need cake all the time, but you shouldn't deny yourself the odd indulgence if you plan for it ahead of time and make it an active choice. 

It's also important to start recognizing what recharges you and it's critical to find things that don't involve eating as form of stress relief. After all, before you face a new boss on raid night, it's important to stock up on your mana potions!

What stress factors can you eliminate quickly and which are out of your control? If you're feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and think of little things you can do. Would cleaning your desk make you feel less stressed? Can you take out the trash or go out and get your groceries? Can you clean out your email inbox?

Is there some activity that you really enjoy that seems to erase the stress of the day? Treat yourself to a pedicure. Carve out some time to watch a movie you've been dying to see. Cuddle with your significant other on the couch and talk about your day together. Schedule an hour to PVP. Maybe you don't have a whole day to lounge around and devour reruns of Doctor Who on Netflix, but you can find some time for yourself if you do some creative thinking.

Can you make time at least once a week to hang with friends and relieve some stress? Sometimes this road to health can be lonely and it can definitely make you feel isolated. Make sure you are putting in time with your friends because it will help you keep a level head. They knew you before you started on this path and they'll be able to step in and help you if you seem to be going a little bonkers.

Is there a physical activity/ritual that seems to center you? Try out some yoga or meditation. Download some new music and go for a walk while you listen to it. The more you can discover physical activities that you truly enjoy, the better off you'll be in the long run.

It's time to accept the things you can't control and and take the helm when it comes to the things you can. Learn to recognize the difference and you'll be able to keep yourself moving in the right direction. Success is just the ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter what. You might not always be perfect, but if you can assess your failures, forgive yourself, and learn from them, then you'll always be ready for the next boss fight will a full mana pool and enough willpower to lead your raid team constructively without the threat of 50 DKP minuses. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

100 lbs Lost

Lately, my points of view about fitness and nutrition have been shifting. I'm far more focused on eating enough, making sure I'm in control of my choices, and paying more attention to how I look, what my measurements are, and how I feel than what the scale is telling me. It's really hard to let go of those "number" goals because they do give you something specific to work towards.

However, the BMI scale, is a little skewed. It's a bell curve so if you are very tall or very short (like me), the weight it wants you to be is sometimes a little off. If you're average height, the readings will be much more realistic, however, it doesn't account for muscle mass. There are professional athletes who are "obese" according to the BMI scale. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Have MANY ways of measuring your progress because they all have their pros and cons.

All that being said, I did hit a really important milestone on the scale recently. I've officially lost 100 lbs. I couldn't believe it when I looked down and saw the number. It was the complete opposite of the sinking feeling I felt at the beginning of this journey when I had to come to terms with where I was starting. I was completely elated and I walked taller for the rest of the day.

This event coincided with a huge non-scale victory. I have a huge family event coming up and I had to go shopping for several nice/semi-formal dresses to wear. I haven't seen my dad's side of the family or been home to Chicago in over a year. It will be like showing up as a different person. When I see people I haven't seen in a while, I sort of feel like I'm wearing my own skin as a costume. It's always a topic of conversation (which I've become ok with), but there's always a dicotomy going on inside me because I know I've changed, but I don't want to feel like I'm throwing away the person I was before. It's hard to really see myself as the new me from underneath my skin because I've been here the whole time. It always cracks me up when my friends see me after a week and they're all, "Dude, you look even smaller than the last time I saw you!" 

I think there's always a certain amount of tough self criticism whether you've lost weight or you just struggle with how you see yourself. It's not that I can't see any change, it's just that I don't see it as extremely as the other people in my life, plus I'm still really self conscious about sagging skin and the remaining plumpness. Recently, this video from Dove has been making the rounds on the interwebs. A sketch artist draws two versions of each woman featured in the video, one as described by the woman herself, and another as described by a random person who has just met them for the first time. I wanted to include it here because I think it's important to keep our demon's at bay when we embark on these major metamorphic journeys. Easier said than done, but watch it!

Meanwhile, back at Macy's: My awesome and VERY generous mom offered to treat me to some nice clothes so I could put my "new and improved" best foot forward. I took my best friend, Emily with me because I'm ABSOLUTELY hopeless when it comes to fashion. Give me a geeky t-shirt and jeans and I'm golden! This girl is my rock and always the Harley Quinn to my Poison Ivy on these little shopping adventures. Five months ago I had to get a dress to sing at a friend's wedding. I was a size 14 and that was so great because it meant I was out of the plus sizes for the first time in years. I decided to try a size 12 tonight because that's what I fit into at work when I was getting new dress pants for my uniform a few weeks ago. Emily was doubtful about that because she thinks our work pants run small, but we tried it. 

Too big. 
We tried a 10. 
Too big. 

On it went till I was wearing a size six. You'll notice I'm a bit misty eyed in the photo because as soon as it zipped, I began to bawl. This huge feeling just washed over me and as the energy of the moment coursed through me, it sought release. I wasn't sad. They were tears of joy. I've never been in this size before. Ever. Hell, I've never been this fit in my life. I've never been this healthy. I've never been surrounded by so much love and support and I've never been so proud to live in my own skin.

Emily and my boyfriend Brandon have been so supportive of me throughout this metamorphosis. Both of them have been my confidants. Before I post anything very raw or emotional on the blog, I always talk about it with them first to get my head on straight. I'm not always easy to deal with. There are times when I've been a complete MESS or I've lashed out because the stress of waging constant willpower war amidst all the other distractions in my world has left me so raw that the slightest thing will set me off. They have born the treacherous waves of my emotions, the onslaught of my self doubt, and my fears of losing control with open hearts and warm hugs. That's true love and I thank my lucky stars that I have that surrounding me every day. I'm at a distinct advantage because of it.

I've had a lot of overwhelming experiences in dressing rooms and most of them have been negative. I've always hated looking at myself in the mirror and even though my mom always did her best to help me hide my flaws when we went shopping, that's what it was always about. There were always alterations and letting pants out and hemming "tall person clothes" because I couldn't fit into the regular sizes in the kid's section. The money and the time she spent on trying to make me look at feel good must have been astronomical. I feel so much guilt about it now because I know she must have felt like I was throwing it back in her face by not doing anything to change my unhealthy habits. I must have seemed so ungrateful. 

I never fit into the dresses I wanted to wear. Before this experience, I'd never had the exciting feeling of seeing "the dress" on the hanger, putting it on, and having it fit like it was made for me. I had to work for it- and I MEAN WORK! Haha!

That's why was indescribably special to me to share this moment with Emily because she's been there through it all and she's been so selfless in her support of me. This was something every girl wants to feel and I finally got it with my best gal pal. I'll never forget it. It was... big.

Even better, I got several other dresses to wear for the weekend (MEDIUMS, I'll have you know! /flex!) and some GREAT jewelry to pair with them. 

I had to go with this black slinky dress because I'm in the middle of my Big Damn Hero Challenge and if Zoe gonna wear a dress, she wants "something with some slink."

I also got something with a few ruffles to satiate the Kaylee in me.

I still have a lot of journey to go. and I know that there are demons and dragons to face going forward, but that's why I'm taking this moment to celebrate and remember why it's so important to persevere. 

It's worth it. It's worth every goddamn drop of sweat, every tear, and every hard won willpower war.

So my little Slayers, if you're out there fighting for better health, keep fighting. Your struggles are just blips on the radar if you keep going. If you can do that- putting one foot in front of the other consistently- you can achieve great things in time. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Official Fitness Everdeen Disclaimer

Lately, I've been feeling a little like Katniss Everdeen.

-Not in that I'm being forced to fight to the death in the arena, but more in that I'm simply a survivalist who's finding herself suddenly surrounded by people looking for a banner to rally behind. Making my journey public has caused people who are suffering under the "weight" of an oppressive fat regime to  look to me for direction. 

Everything I've done, I did because I was truly on a path to self destruction and my life and my future were in jeopardy because of my weight and bad health habits. Even the act of writing the blog began selfishly. I knew it would keep me accountable if people knew what I was up to. I posted photos and a few milestones on my social networking feeds because I knew having them out there would encourage me to keep going and prevent backsliding. 

I didn't realize I was holding poison berries. I didn't realize that my journey would become a symbol or even a source of inspiration for so many people.

I'm constantly amazed and moved by all the messages I receive from readers about how my weight loss quest and this blog have affected and inspired them. Some are from family or friends, others are from co-workers or former classmates, but more and more are coming to me from beyond those circles; complete strangers who stumbled upon my story and my writing and who want to let me know they're working on living healthier and being truer to themselves because of witnessing what I've done or reading something I've written.

It blows my mind because I never would have seen it coming. You see, my fellow stat-changing-fat-slayers, I'm just getting by on whatever "achievement unlocked" endorphins I can release each day. Sure, there are days when I reach a milestone and I feel amazing about what I'm doing, but there are SO many days where I make mistakes or realize that something I've done was wrong or ill-informed. Yes,  even I, Fitness Everdeen: the Mockingjay of Project Reroll, have binged on home made cookies and ice-cream or skipped a workout because I felt lazy. I've had one more cocktail than I should have. I've looked in the mirror and despite all my success, seen only the remaining flaws. I'm telling you this because it's important to me that you all realize I question myself all the time- not so much my conviction, but my methods.

Am I doing this right? 
Could I be going about this in a healthier way? 
What's the best advice I can give so that my readers can find success?
Wait, who the hell am I to dispense health advice or product reviews?

The rising success of this blog has really caused me to think critically about those questions and to consider not just my health, but the wellness of my readers. I am absolutely over the moon about all of the new folks who have been discovering the site and so excited about how many of you are leaving comments or joining in the Walk to Mordor. I'm touched by your messages and I'm honored that you spend your time here on the site reading about what I've learned. I want to make sure you get good information and I want to make sure you understand who you're getting it from.

So here it is.

My Official "Fitness Everdeen" Disclaimer

I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a doctor. I'm not a personal trainer. I'm not a guru. I'm just your average geek trying her best to get healthier who has picked up a few new attribute stats, magical items, and life experience points along the way. Naturally, I want to share any gathered materials or discovered knowledge with my party. 

Thusly, I have a responsibility to all of you to be honest, open, and accurate to the best of my ability. I may not have intended to create a banner that people could rally behind, but that's what happened. Challenge Accepted. I'm proud of myself and my quest for better health. If reading about it has empowered you to reach your own goals, then I am incredibly honored to have shared in your success!

My dear readers, I will be your "Mockingjay" if you'll accept that I'm teaching from experience and not expertise. If you know something I've said is incorrect, I encourage you to post your conflicting information. I'd love to have a dialogue about it in the comments. 

This is a place for a community of like minded people to fight their way to a healthier existence.

May the scales be ever in your favor.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fitbit Review

Nutrisystem catalyzed a giant change for the better in my life. After committing to start that program about 10 months ago, it's been a while  a new product came along that has changed the way I look at my every day actions in such an intensely rigorous, fascinating, and encouraging way- Until NOW

Fitbit is changing my life step by step and meal by meal. I've never had more energy, more awareness of my physical activity, or been more at peace with my diet.

I'm a competitive gamer. I love to see my "stats." Setting goals and tracking my progress are huge motivators in-game and in life. It should come as no surprise that I discovered this device/program while making friends on the Nerd Fitness forums! With Fitbit, I get to go through that process every single day. You can set a stride goal, a calorie burn goal, a specific diet plan with a daily deficit to match the intensity of your desired diet or simply plan for maintenance, and you can follow along as you work towards those benchmarks every day. You can enter your measurements, your weight, and your stride length for increased accuracy from your activity readings. You can sync the device to a online dashboard which you can view and make changes to both on your computer, a tablet, or on the fly if you use your smart phone app. Not only is it an incredibly dynamic system, but if you use the phone app, it will send you notifications if you are particularly close to your goal or if you need to step it up in order to meet your daily goals. 

There can be a competitive aspect to using Fitbit. You can use social media to connect with your friends, see how they're doing, and cheer/taunt/comment on their achievements. You also get badges for lifetime achievements like your first 50 miles walked, or your first time taking 20,000 steps in a day. This encourages friendly competition between you and your comrades, and of course it encourages you to compete against yourself! You can see stats on your best day or your lifetime miles walked while wearing the device. I encourage my whole family to get them and their awareness and activity level has increased exponentially over the last three weeks. 

Sometimes it's hard to pair weight loss programs. In my opinion (and you're welcome to disagree and discuss in the comments!) you can't do Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem, or successfully gain the benefits of Paleo while sticking to the raw food movement. Usually you have to pick one thing that works for you and stick with it for long enough that you can sustain success and encourage the results you're looking for. I previously wrote about wanting to transition to Weight Watchers when I got to maintenance because you can easily track your food whether you make it yourself or purchase it from a chain restaurant. Plus (unlike Nutrisystem), Weight Watchers takes exercise into account and allows you extra points to spend on food based on how much energy you expend. 

Fitbit allows me to do that all right now, without joining another program that I have to pay for. There's just a one time expenditure to buy your device and the online tracking dashboard is available to your at no charge. In addition, I don't have to wait until I'm in maintenance to begin learning how to plan my diet around my actual activity. It seems silly to say that, but before I started using Fitbit, I'd just pick out my Nutrisystem entrees for the day based on what I wanted or what I "thought" I'd be physically doing, since the requirement was simply to eat all the fresh add ins and land between 1250 and 1350 calories each day. Now with Fitbit, I can make more educated choices about which entrees I should eat on which days AND I can more easily flex the plan when I need to go out to dinner for a special occasion. I can base those choices off of my actual activity rather than an arbitrary number. I'm a huge fan and it has left me feeling way more energized from day to day. It totally broke me out of the plateau I was in. Their database holds nutritional data for all sorts of food, both from groceries and chains. You can adjust the portions based on what you actually eat and if it doesn't have the nutritional data for an item that you have (like a Nutrisystem entree or a salad dressing you bought at the store), you can simply add a new food to the database and enter all the relevant information.

You should eat for the life you're living. Fitbit helps me do that in a fuel efficient and dynamic way!

Bonus? If you're someone who uses Weight Watchers and loves it, then you can just pass on the food logging and continue to use your other program while still getting your calorie burn, strides, distance, and your activity score. If you already use a log like MyFitnessPal, you can link it with your Fitbit account so that you can integrate them with each other. 

My only concerns are making sure that I have a store of batteries for when my Zip needs a new one so I don't miss a day of tracking (mine hasn't shown signs of wearing out after three weeks), making sure I get in the habit of religiously putting it on every morning, and making sure I remember to log activities that aren't measured as accurately (aka yoga, long boarding, or cycling) so that I can get proper credit for the calories burned.

Fitbit offers a variety of different devices at varying levels of expense (from $45 for the Zip on Amazon to $100+ for the other models). Personally, I use the Fitbit Zip (the cheapest option) but you should check out all three devices they have available because each one has varying benefits and you may have different priorities than I do. Keep in mind, they're sometimes available for less money on Amazon, so definitely check out whatever deals they have.

I simply can't recommend this product enough. Go get one! You won't regret it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Big Damn Hero Challenge

It's Monday April 15th and that means it's the beginning of a new Nerd Fitness 6 Week Challenge! After the success I had with the last one, I'm ready to attack a new set of goals head on and continue to level up my life! You have until Wednesday April 17th to create your goals and post them in the guild thread you want to participate in for the challenge, so I highly recommend biting the bullet and joining the rebellion if you're not already a part of it! 

Last challenge, I gave my challenge a Rainbow Dash theme because I was preparing cosplay as her for PAX East. This time, I'll be using the ladies from Joss Whedon's Firefly to inspire my goals! Note: All artwork by Megan Lara.

Starting Stats:

Hearthsinger the Wandering Bard
Level 2 Halfling Ranger
STR 4 | DEX 3 | STA 7 | CON 5 | WIS 6 | CHA 4

Starting Photos:

Starting Weight: 151.4 lbs.
Starting Measurements:
Bust: 36.25"
Waist: 36.5"
Hips: 42"
Thigh: 20.75"
Calves: 15.5"
Bicep: 12.25"

Fitness/Diet goals:

  • "I need you up in the engine room figurin' out what caused this." ~Malcolm Reynolds 
    • I'll use all the tech at my disposal to maximize the efficiency of my workouts and the effectiveness of my diet plan
      • I'll log every meal I eat on Fitbit.
      • I must meet my -1000 calorie deficit at least 6/7 days a week while still eating EVERYTHING I'm supposed to on my diet plan so I can stay on track with my weight loss. 
        • No more starving myself to meet the deficit is allowed. I must consume at least 1100 calories every "day of rest." On active/working days, I must consume 1250-1350. 
    • Reward: CON +4
  • "You ever been with a warrior woman?" ~Wash
    • Time to get more serious about my strength training with. Daily Yoga
      • 20-30 minutes/day including vinyasa series and warrior dance to warm up the body, followed by focused work on the following three poses. 
        • Hold crow for 10 seconds (right now I can just barely get both feet off the floor for a few seconds)
        • Wheel for 10 seconds (I've gotten up into it one time, but mostly only make it to the top of my head)
        • Hold shoulder stand for 10 minutes by the end of the challenge (right now my PR is four minutes). 
    • Reward: STR +3, DEX +2
  • "No power in the 'verse can stop me." ~River Tam
    • I have graduated from the Zombies, Run 5K Training app so it's time to start doing 3 missions a week with the regular Zombies, Run app
      • By the end of the challenge, I'd like to go from my 5k PR of: 33 min down to 30 min. 
    • Reward: STA +3
Life Goal:
  • "Should I start with the part where you're stranded in the middle of nowhere or the part where you have no clothes?" ~Inara Serra
    • I'm running out of clothes that fit properly again and I don't have a lot of money, so it's time to get resourceful and list all my old designer clothes, shoes, and sundry items that no longer fit or are no longer wanted for sale on ebay. 
      • They do not have to be sold by the end of the challenge, but all of the items have to be collected, organized, photographed, and listed by the end of six weeks. 
      • I can use the proceeds to replenish my dwindling wardrobe! 
    • Reward: CHA +3
So there you have it! In six weeks, I'll post a follow up on the blog to let you know how I did!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Little Pony: Cosplay Is Magic

I've posted a lot of progress pictures for the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Rainbow Dash and Soarin cosplay I created for my boyfriend and me to wear to PAX East and BronyCon this year, but I haven't really put up a ton of pictures of the finished product. This is my second cosplay ever and I learned a lot during the process, including how to embroider and how to use the character I was portraying as inspiration for my workout routine

The reason I was holding off on posting photos is that while we were at the con, we managed to do a photo shoot with a professional photographer, Ger Tysk from Chou-wa Photography. My friends Stephanie and Emily had already arranged shoots for their costumes and raved about how fun she was to work with, plus she was only asking $15 dollars per person to do the shoot. When you've spent over 40 hours of work and a fair amount of money on building a costume (and who knows how many hours sweating at the gym to look good in it!), it's natural to want to celebrate the finished product with good photos to commemorate the occasion. This seemed like the perfect way to do it! She was a pleasure to work with and she's currently working on a photobook called Breaking All the Rules: Cosplay and the Art of Self Expression. You should definitely check out her page and see if she's headed to a convention near you!

When I chose Rainbow Dash, I didn't know if I could pull off the costume. I had done Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender at New York Comic Con because he was a giant sky bison and I figured the internet couldn't lampoon me for that choice as an overweight lady. Doing Rainbow Dash, a character who's been done by extremely fit and talented cosplayers like Jessica Nigri amongst others AND is known for being the "jock" character on the show is risky because your body is a part of your success. Sadly, if you can't "embody" the character then it's almost like you didn't make the costume at all. I'm sure there are a lot of people who disagree with that, but I think it holds true (even though I don't like saying it). I do think that first and foremost, cosplay is something you should do for yourself and if something makes you happy, then you should absolutely go for it. Personally, I know that feeling like I can't pull something off makes me more miserable than proud, no matter how hard I worked on a costume. 

When it came to Rainbow Dash, I just knew I loved the character enough to challenge myself all the way to the finish line. I made the choice in October and I had until the end of March to see it through. I had no idea if I'd be satisfied with my physical progress. Despite my fitness improvements, the support of my friends, and my pride in the costuming I'd done, I was even worried while I was getting into the costume and even at times while I was at the convention. That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself. I just have a habit of seeing my flaws. It's one of the things that landed me in this mess with my body in the first place. I'm really hard on myself and I can be cruel to the point of being crippling to my own development as a person and as an athlete.

It wasn't until I saw these pictures that I understood my success. Not only do I feel great about the way I look in them, but I see the fun in my eyes and in the brightness of the costumes. I can feel the love that my boyfriend and I have for these characters and for each other. I see the whole journey. I feel the ache in my legs after a long run, something I never would have done were it not for Rainbow Dash. I see the athlete I didn't think I could live up to. I'm proud that I didn't adjust the costume to my body, but that I worked on my body to fit the character and to better myself. I see myself energized after a week of finally getting all the food I was supposed to as opposed to abusing myself by depriving it. I can say that I feel beautiful when I look at those photos and that I actually believe it- hell, I can say I'm AWESOME and believe it! I know I'm working and I have every intention of continuing this journey for the rest of my life, but I can say that seeing these pictures makes me proud of where I am now.

Some days, that has to be enough. 

So without further ado, here are the pictures of Rainbow Dash and Soarin, shippin' it up at PAX East 2013. 

Look out for us at BronyCon in August because we're going to wear the costumes again! It's kind of nice not worrying about building a whole new costume, but I'm sure if I keep progressing like I have that I'll have to do a little "refitting." Hell, that's a problem I'm ok with having. Next on the docket? Hitting my goal weight and tackling the Xena costume I've always wanted to do.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tea: Fall In Love with Hot Leaf Juice!

By Ryanneal on Deviant Art

When I started my weight loss journey, one of the first things I did to motivate myself while working out was to re-watch every episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender on the elliptical machine. There are so many wonderful things about the show and I get something new from it every time I watch it. 

When it comes to inspirational quotes, Uncle Iroh has always been a favorite of mine, but one of his most defining qualities (aside from pure badassery) is his adoration of tea! In the past few months, I have learned to fall in love with it too and now it's an absolute staple in my daily diet.

I've always been a huge coffee and soda drinker my whole life but for the first month or so of my diet, I really wanted to cut those things out so that I could detox on the caffeine and all of the sugar and aspartame I was ingesting.

As time went on, however, I found myself really missing my morning hit of caffeine. I did eventually go back to having a small cup of coffee with skim milk and Splenda, but eventually I started looking into tea because I can take it with our without milk depending on what my diet plan looks like for the day so far, whereas with coffee, I hate to drink it black. My main goal was to get caffeine into my system and to obtain a go-to "liquid" snack with minimal negative impact on my diet. 

There are many different types of tea and they all have varying benefits. My focus was on green and black teas- Green because of what I've heard about it encouraging fat burn and preventing diabetes (not to mention it may prevent several forms of cancer), and black because it's a great morning option since it's the highest caffeinated tea. Black tea might not have as much caffeine as coffee or soda, but it has been proven to have a more specific effect on mental focus rather than general frenetic energy. Not only does it boost metabolism, but it also protects your lungs from second hand smoke exposure, contains antioxidants that lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease, and helps prevent ovarian, prostate, lung, stomach, and breast cancer. Did I mention Black tea also strengthens your bones and boosts your immune response to keep you from getting sick?

Obviously, my conclusion, like Uncle Iroh, was to start drinking ALL THE TEA. There's a lot of teas out there, so I've taken some of the guess work out of it by selecting some of my favorite discoveries to share with you! 
  • Celestial Seasonings Decaf Green Tea with White Tea
    • Decaffeinated green tea, decaffeinated white tea and Vitamin C.
      • This was the best simple green tea I found. It's decaf, making it a great option for the evening or for anyone who's avoiding caffeine. It is a little more full bodied then what I typically drink in Japanese restaurants. I found it best pure and unsweetened. Not my favorite overall, but if you're just looking to drink straight green tea, this is a great option.
  • Celestial Seasonings Sleeptytime Vanilla
    • Chamomile, spearmint, west indian lemongrass, natural french vanilla flavor, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn and rosebuds.
      • I bought this specifically to help me wind down before bed. I find vanilla very soothing and drinking this tea with a little bit of stevia or honey is perfection. I added milk a few times and it sort of destroyed the layers of herbal flavors, so that's an option, but definitely not necessary.
  • Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea
    • Decaffeinated green tea, spiked with peppermint
      • A friend at work turned me onto this. This tea is seasonal and she had some left over and now I'm hoarding the few bags she gave me because it's so delicious. The mint is gentle as is the green tea taste and it's decaffeinated making it a great before bed option. I don't even need sugar. Just some stevia or honey. Is it Christmas yet so I can buy more?
  • Twining's Pure Mint
    • Black tea, peppermint leaves, spearmint leaves
      • This is my favorite black mint tea. Like the name suggests, it's fresh and crisp. I enjoy it with stevia or honey, but if I'm trying feel warm, cozy and comforted, a touch of milk makes all the difference!
  • Twinings Ultra Spiced Chai
    • Black tea, natural Chai, cinnamon & ginger flavors with other natural flavors, cardamom, clove
      • I had never tried Chai before, but after chatting with a barista friend, realizing how much I loved cinnamon and how much I was craving the richness that I used to find in coffee, I bought some of this. It is to DIE FOR! There are so many layers to the taste, especially if you let it steep for over 6 minutes. I drink this with milk and stevia almost every morning.
  • Twining's French Vanilla Chai
    • Black tea, natural Chai, cinnamon & ginger flavors with other natural flavors, artificial vanilla flavor, cardamom, clove, vanilla pod powder.
      • I loved the Ultra Spiced Chai so much that I bought this variety as well for a more desert-like taste. It has all the richness of the previous tea with the gentle aromatic overtone of vanilla. Settling down with a cup of this mixed with milk and stevia whilst watching reruns of Star Trek: TNG has become the perfect way of restoring sanity at the end of stressful day at work. 
  • Twining's Spiced Apple Chai
    • Black tea, natural apple, Chai, cinammon & ginger flavors with other natural flavors, cardamom, clove
      • Wondering if I would enjoy Chai without milk, I bought this variety. I had some apple tea whilst visiting Turkey some time ago and have never found anything that quite lived up to it here in the USA- until NOW! The apple taste is really great and almost caramel-like when you add stevia, though I think honey would probably taste great as well. 
Those are my top picks! I'd love to hear about your favorite teas in the comments.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Nerd Fitness 6 Week Challenge Review!


Today marks the end of my first Nerd Fitness 6 week challenge. Since I posted my initial challenge goals on the blog at the beginning, I thought I'd share my final progress report here so you can see just how much can be accomplished in six short weeks of work!

Challenge Starting Weight: 162.4 lbs
Challenge Ending Weight: 153.4 lbs
Total Loss: -9.4 lbs (I was hoping for more, but considering my struggles with food/con-going during the course of the challenge I'm pretty happy with this!) 

Final Measurements: 

Bust: (Starting 38") 36.25"
Waist: (Starting 41") 36.5"
Hips: (Starting 44") 42"
Thigh: (Starting 22.25") 20.75"
Calves: (Starting 16.5") 15.5"
Bicep: (Starting 12.5") 12.25"

Total Inches lost during challenge: -11 inches (That's pretty BANANAS!)

Before Photos: (NOTE: I wasn't going to post these photos on the blog, but I feel like the progress really shows and hopefully it inspires you guys to start taking photos to mark the changes in your body!)

After Photos:

Fitness/Nutrition goals:
  • Take at least one Yoga class a week.
    • I aced this 100% and even took an extra class one week.
    • I made some great progress with The Wheel and the Crow that I intend to continue with a more rigorous focus in the next challenge.
      • Reward: +2 STR
  • Complete "Zombies, Run 5k Training"  3x/week.
    • I never missed a run, not even at PAX East! I found a hotel with a gym and made sure I got my training in at 6AM so I could enjoy the con guilt free for the rest of the day! I'm loving my runs more and more each time and I'm getting ready to do my final mission for the app on Friday of the week! I can't wait to see my first 5k time so I can make some PR goals for the next challenge!
      • Reward: +5 STA
  • Complete at least two 45 minute training sessions on the elliptical per week.
    • Passed with flying colors! Never missed a session and got in plenty of Xena: Warrior Princess episodes while I trained. Win win! AYIYIYIYIYI!
      • Reward: +2 DEX
  • Learn to cook three Paleo meals by the end of the challenge.

Life Goal:
  • Write at least 2 new blog posts a week and create a logo for the header. 
    • I posted retro blog entries here every day and wrote my two new posts without fail every week. 
    • Having the deadline was really crucial for me. I find that having a back log of drafts is very useful and I will definitely continue to do that as time goes on. 
    • Very soon I'll be moving to a 2 post per week publishing format. Readers, feel free to vote in the poll on the left sidebar.
    • Added bonus: My reader base blossomed from under one thousand to over ten thousand unique views in just 6 short weeks! 
    • Sadly, while I did make progress on the logo with my graphic designer, the incredible Annie Stoll, she's been busy with some pretty amazing new clients! I'm so happy for her success and I'm honestly just blessed to have her volunteering to help me with the site. She's the real deal, people! Soon you'll see her amazing work at the top of the blog every time you stop by! The lesson I learned here was that I shouldn't make a challenge goal that depends on anyone's actions but my own in the future, but I know the finished product will be worth the wait!
      • Reward: + 2 WIS
        • I subtracted 1 point from the original proposed reward for not finishing the logo.

Final "Level Up Your Life" Stats for my forum signature:
Hearthsinger the Wandering Bard
Level 2 Halfling Ranger
STR 4 | DEX 3 | STA 7 | CON 5 | WIS 6 | CHA 4

The next challenge starts on Monday April 15th, so if this looks like something you want to try, check out their forums and start preparing your goals so you can participate!

In closing I want to thank the Nerd Fitness community for welcoming me with open arms, commenting on my progress during the challenge, and encouraging me through the rough patches. Your reactions to my results have been so overwhelming and supportive. I'm proud of myself, but I'm lucky to have found you guys and honored to have shared this challenge journey with you!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Targeryen Dragonfire Hash

It's time for another Project Reroll recipe! To celebrate the premiere of the new season of Game of Thrones, I thought I would attack the "premiere" meal of the day, breakfast! I love corned beef hash, but that's not in the cards if you're trying to keep to a healthy diet, so I decided to create a new take on my old favorite. Toss out the carbs, and bring on the egg whites, broccoli slaw, romaine, chili powder, and shallots! It's time for a breakfast fit for the Mother of Dragons herself:

Targeryen Dragonfire Hash

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2 people


  • 1/4 lb of 90% or more lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites
  • 1 shallot.
  • 1 tbs basil
  • 1 tbs parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 cups Baby Romaine or Spinach (depending on your preference)
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw
  • Hot Sauce (to taste)
  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Put the beef in a mixing bowl.
  3. Chop your shallot and put it in the bowl.
  4. Add your basil, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder.
  5. Put a skillet on the stove over medium heat.
  6. While you wait for the skillet to warm, use your hands to mix the ingredients in the mixing bowl thoroughly. 
  7. When you are done, put the seasoned ground beef into the pan and spread it out evenly. DO NOT add oil to the pan. You won't need it.
  8. Leave untouched for 3 minutes so the bottom layer can brown.
  9. Return and stir continually until everything is cooked to the same level of brown-ness. 
  10. Use a spatula to break up the beef completely and spread it along the bottom of the pan.
  11. Add your romaine or spinach.
  12. Add 1 cup broccoli slaw.
  13. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the veggies start to warm. Mix them in with the beef.
  14. Add hot sauce on top to your desired level of hotness.
  15. Measure out your egg whites and pour them evenly over the ingredients in the pan. 
  16. Cover pan and leave to set for 5 minutes or till desired consistency is achieved.
  17. Uncover and serve!
Other ideas:
Add more veggies! Tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, the sky's the limit! Get creative!

This dish makes for a veggie filled, protein packed, super filling start to the day with a bit of a spicy kick to boot! After eating this breakfast, I guarantee you'll have the energy you need to gather an army and sail across the narrow sea to claim the Iron Throne- and that's a 100% Khaleesi promise.

Why not give it a try yourself? Leave your experiences and ideas in the comments! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

In the Game of Fat, You Lose or You Cry

Today was weigh-in day and I finally saw a number I could be proud of on the scale after conquering a few weeks of weight loss agony, plateaus, and starvation mode woes. I lost 5.6 lbs this week and I'm officially down 95 lbs overall! This is a very special victory for me for multiple reasons.

Reason the first! At PAX East, I went off the deep end a little bit. I spent the week prior to the convention reintroducing all the foods I'd been leaving out of my diet, as well as trying to get myself back on track and out of starvation mode. I was also trying not to obsess as much about things and therefor I wasn't planning on looking at the scale till the Monday after PAX. Then came the actual convention. Sure, I did everything right leading up to it. I packed most of my food ahead of time and I only planned to eat out for dinners and for coffee during the day. Then I realized all too late that I would need fresh veggies and I would have to get salads at the con where I wouldn't have as much control over portions or content. This threw off my budgeting both for cash and calories. I also planned to enjoy a meal at Fire + Ice in Boston on Thursday night and even though I loaded up my stir fry with a ton of veggies, I still went to the ice cream bar for desert and DESTROYED the most overindulgent delicious sundae ever complete with mint chocolate marshmallow fudge. My lack of gallbladder screamed in protest. I told it to SHUT IT. It was cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria. Once I had that sundae, my sugar addiction kicked into high gear. My boyfriend got mint chocolate cookies and I had to have one because my costume was "getting uncomfortable and eating cookies=relief." Really? What kind of an excuse was THAT? I had a brownie one night. I ate a whole chicken caesar wrap the size of a baby arm another night. It was out of control. I felt out of control and I didn't like it.

When I came back home on Sunday night I said, "That's it. You've had your fun. You need to get your head on straight now that you're home. No excuses." It was a struggle, but I persevered. I ate all the food on the plan just like I'd been doing prior to leaving. I can now say I've made it through the whole week without depriving myself of anything I was supposed to eat which is huge for me. I also resisted SEVERAL temptations along the way since did end up going out to dinner two nights in a row! However, I didn't stray. I made a plan and I stuck to it. It was agonizing and willpower draining, but I feel like I finally exorcised all the sugar and chemicals from my system and I have my eyes on the prize again.

Reason the second for celebration is that my brand new Fitbit arrived on Wednesday. It's a handy little wearable gadget that tracks my steps, my distance, and my daily calorie burn (based on my height, weight, and other statistics) and uploads all the stats to a website so I can log my food and make sure I'm hitting the right calorie deficit to hopefully lose two pounds a week. It's pretty incredible! I will do a more in depth review of the product at some point, but suffice to say, this little tool gave me the kick in the pants and the extra bit of excitement I needed to push through some of the really hard days I had this week. 

Reason the third: I found out that I'm officially not obese on the BMI scale anymore, just overweight. So instead of being a fat fat fatty, I'm just a wee bit tubby. Still, it's a huge accomplishment and I wanted to relish it because I'm never going back to that old me ever again. 

So, I ask you, what better way is there to celebrate all of these accomplishments then to assume my rightful place up on the Iron Throne of Westeros in my Megan Lara Khaleesi t-shirt. I really can't think of one.