Swam a Mile


Did you wonder where the healthy lifestyle/weight loss/weight maintenance blogger went? The truth is, I think about it ALL THE TIME. I think about what I should write, about what I should tell you, about things that I’ve seen and heard, and have an opinion about. I’ve even taken notes on some podcasts, and was going to review them for you. This American Life did a Fat podcast that was excellent. I could relate to so much of what the women interviewed said. Oh, and this week I watched the beginning of a new television show “This is Us” on the recommendation of two of my blog buddies, and I couldn’t even believe how much of the inside stuff they got on the overweight character. I don’t know if I laughed or was just speechless when they showed her getting onto the scale, and then pausing to take her earrings off (I HAVE DONE THIS) and then she stepped on the scale so gingerly that she fell backwards off of it (I STILL DO THIS. well, not the falling off. at least most of the time.)

But when it comes down to it, I just don’t want to write about it anymore. The longer time goes on, the less I think I know about it, especially weight maintenance. Back in the beginning of this year, I had a little rebellion. I was just too tired of keeping track of everything I ate. What would happen if I just ate like a normal person? What would happen? I would gain weight. Yep. So then I decided that I would just track everything. I really like LoseIt, and its almost fun for me to write down my meals for the day. But I just couldn’t restrict any more. And by that, I mean, I couldn’t  restrict enough to lose weight. So I set LoseIt to 1650 calories (which they thought would allow me to lose 1/2 pound a week hahahaha.) Eating 1650 calories every day was a lot more than I’ve consciously allowed myself for a LOOOONG time. That’s been going pretty good. Occasionally I’ll think, oh, give it the old college try again–just cut back by 200 calories. And I can immediately feel the rebellion welling up inside of me. If I force the issue, I end up eating MORE than I should. I just tell you all this to say, you have to know yourself.

In the meantime, I have kept a vigorous exercise regimen going. I knew I didn’t dare cut back on that, even on the days I felt “too fat” to go to the gym. When I am home, I keep a regular routine (and you all know I love my routines) of walking the dogs early in the morning three days a week (20-30 minutes). On those days I also do my physical therapy exercises plus some core exercises (also 20-30 minutes.) And then three days a week I go to the gym. For the summer I’ve been splitting my time between the stationary bike and the pool. I like “jogging” in the pool. It feels like real exercise, and its so nice to work out hard and NOT have knee pain. Somewhere towards the middle of the summer, I started enjoying swimming more, and started swimming longer distances. I thought I might make a goal of swimming a mile again. A mile in an Olympic pool is 175 lengths, and that has taken me three hours in the past. I think its been a couple of years since I did that. Saturday morning I was talking with my brother, who was on the Swim Team in high school, and I asked him if he thought it would be better to try to swim the mile on a cooler day (73 degrees,) or wait for a warmer day. He thought it would be better on a cooler day. So that was it.

I did go ahead of time to a special bakery to get myself a treat for swimming a mile🙂 And here is how it always goes for me. The FIRST length, I think, Oh, I can’t do this. I’ll just do my 20 minutes and do some water jogging and be done with it. Then after maybe 15 minutes I think, well maybe I can make it for two hours. I’ll do the whole mile later. As two hours approached, I kept thinking about a lot of things–Shelley running her half marathons, Olympians training and training, Lori doing her 40 mile bike rides, my special treat waiting for me, AND the fact that if I stopped now I’d have to come back and swim this ridiculous amount of time AGAIN. So I just kept going.

Related to how I like counting my calories, I also like doing the math in my head–after 15 minutes, okay, one-twelfth done. Now, just five minutes later, one-nineth done. Thirty minutes in, about one-sixth done. Okay, I won’t bore you with any more of my math calculations🙂 I wear a little lap counter on my finger and keep track that way. This year it took me 3 hours and 10 minutes. I didn’t practice as much as I have in previous years. And, as my brother pointed out, I’m older. I’ll take it. I am going to be 62 years old in December. I’m still overweight, but I’m not the same person as I was twelve years ago. I have a lot of healthy habits, and I plan on keeping those.


The Biggest Loser

I admit it. I watch that ridiculous, irritating show, “The Biggest Loser.” I am jealous of their fantastic weight loss achievements. I feel bad that I am so weak, and I cannot even maintain the 100 pounds that I lost.

Me at my lowest weight of 155 pounds, about ten years ago.

Me at my lowest weight of 155 pounds, about ten years ago.

But then one day a few months ago, my BF sent me this old picture. I was shocked. Maybe its not so bad after all. Maybe I am a little better off than I was in those pictures.

image1 copy

About 20 years ago.

Here’s another picture I found (@ Shelley–my first two dachshunds! @Lori–pre-garden re-make!)


About 15 years ago.

I didn’t maintain all 100 lost pounds, but still I sure was a lot better off than I was back in those days. I started wondering about how many of the Biggest Losers were still maintaining their weight loss. I looked around online and couldn’t really find any definitive articles. And then my BF sent me a link to this article. Ohhhh. Wow. Not too many of them are maintaining their weight loss. And maybe there’s a reason its so very hard to keep the weight off.

So the opposite side of “fighting destiny,” and a part of how I feel every day is “I AM the Biggest Loser!” I am one million times better off now than I was in those old pictures. Even with bad knees, I can roll up my pants, take off my shoes and climb (very carefully🙂 ) over the rocks at Crystal Cove.

Me at my current weight.

Me at my current weight.

I refuse to feel “less than” because I am not as thin as I used to be. I will be content and happy and grateful that I have worked hard and long to learn to live and enjoy a healthier life.

Fighting Destiny

You know how some scientists and diet “experts” talk about your natural set-point? Yeah, my body’s natural set-point is 257.5 pounds. I actually was always surprised when I visited someone who kept a scale in their house, and my weight was almost always exactly 257.5 pounds. It seemed weird that I could weigh so much and yet my weight was the same to a tenth of a pound.

Eleven years ago, shortly after my 50th birthday, I started a weight loss venture that ended a year and a half later with a total loss of 100 pounds. Well, “ended” is the wrong word to use. It has not ended yet. I currently am keeping off 75 of those pounds. I have lost and regained those other 25 pounds several times in the intervening years.

So, fighting destiny seems a little overly dramatic. But it seemed like the right words for what I’ve been thinking about. Sometimes it seems like I am fighting destiny, trying to maintain my weight loss. Whether it is genetic, environmental, or ENTIRELY MY FAULT, some days it just seems like its a losing battle (and here the word losing is not what we are all hoping for.)

Is it genetic? My parents used to love to tell the story of how, when I first came home from the hospital (and I was their first baby,) they would have to have a second bottle warming up. Because when the first bottle was finished, I would start screaming if there was not another one ready to pop into my mouth. Oh, and their second favorite story? It was that my first word was not daddy or mama. No, my first word was “nappo” (apple.) That does seem like there might be a little genetic component there, doesn’t it?

Is it environmental? Both of my parents enjoyed food and loved sweets. A “goodie bag” was a typical Friday night treat (my dad would get five candy bars, and we had to pick one out of the bag without looking.) We had good home-cooked meals most nights, but when we could afford it, we ordered pizza or went out for burgers. Sunday after church we’d stop for a restaurant dinner on the way home. Heck, I grew up in the era when MacDonalds was born!

Is it ENTIRELY MY FAULT? At least three times in my younger life, I lost (and then re-gained) 80-100 pounds. And then there were the innumerable times that I lost and regained 30-50 pounds. In the end, when I was about 30 years old, I said I’d never diet again. I gained from 232 up to said 257.5 pounds, and stayed there for many years. I ate whatever I wanted. I wasn’t a binger. I just ate cookies every day, had an afternoon snack of a candy bar at work, and pretty much stopped for a fast food dinner on my way home every night. I was a really good baker.

So most days now, I feel like I am fighting destiny. I usually weigh and/or measure my food. I make really healthy choices, being careful to get enough fresh veggies, fruits, and protein in. I oftentimes log my food. And I exercise six days a week, usually for 40 minutes. But many days I want A LITTLE MORE. It is not a binge. Sometimes it is even healthy food. But I want more. And therein lies the rub. You can’t keep the weight off, and you sure can’t lose if you want a little more. Ha! One article claimed that to keep from GAINING 2 pounds a year, it was only a difference in 10-20 calories a day! Their example was ONE STARBURST candy. Good grief.

This is the negative side of my daily inner thought life. Come back later in the week to read about the positive side🙂


Chit Chat

I don’t have enough about one topic to write a whole post, but if I title it “chit chat,” I can talk a little bit about a bunch of things, right?

So the first thing that’s on my mind is the subtitle of my blog “thoughts on living a whole and  healthy life.” I don’t write too much about living a healthy life any more. But unlike what many suspicious bloggers write, its not because I’ve fallen off the wagon or anything. I’ve just been writing about healthy living and diet and food and maintenance and exercise for seven freaking years. Most of the time I feel like there’s nothing new to talk about.

So here’s a healthy living check-up: I still eat mostly whole foods. Lots of great fruit this summer. Its been a disappointing summer for fresh vegetables, but I still find enough to enjoy, and I fill in with salads for the rest. I try to avoid sugar, although it has been making a more frequent appearance in the past month or so. Wheat? I’ve been eating it a bit more, and it does consistently result in some gastrointestinal disturbance. So that is pretty motivating to keep wheat off my plate for the most part. That re-gained 25 pounds that I worked so hard to re-lose a couple of years ago? Yep, I gained it all back. That leaves me holding steady and contemplating the next step. There’s no point in what was pretty severe food restriction if its not going to result in a lower MAINTENANCE weight. Some days I log my food, and other days I wing it. The days I “wing it” you can usually find a scrap of paper or two where I am jotting down what I ate to make sure I stay within the limits I’ve set. So I guess I log my food every day🙂 I totally keep up my daily exercise, and really enjoy that. I go to the gym and do the bike for 20 minutes and pool-jog for 20 minutes. I stopped doing my weights exercises, just because of time restraints, and I realized that I was feeling a bit weak in my upper body. So it was back upstairs to the weights room at the gym, and I am enjoying that very much. Since its cooled down a bit, I am taking more walks with Noah and I do keep up with my PT exercises at home, and I added in a few core exercises to that routine too.

Recently I made a little change to my daily routine that I am quite pleased about. I usually have a small first breakfast (150-225 calories.) And then I was stopping mid-morning for a tea break, usually with a Quest bar. I decided to see if I could eliminate that snack. The first day I thought I might only be able to do it a couple of days a week. But now its become a habit, and I like it because it eliminates a few calories, but also because of the extra time in my morning.

Okay, back to that mention of severe food restriction. That is something I’ve thought about A LOT. I was going to write something about “You have to Decide for Yourself.” There are so many ways to eat. So very many good ways to eat. And one of the ways to cut down on the AMOUNT of food you eat is to just eliminate whole food groups. Look, there’s nothing wrong with this. Many cultures seem to live just fine with SEVERELY restricted food groups. But we don’t live in those countries. We live in America, the land of the free, where every conceivable food from every single food group is available every single day everywhere you go. So you have to decide what works for you. Don’t assume that just because eliminating food groups results in weight loss or claims of better health works for someone else that it will work for you. YOU HAVE TO DECIDE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. And sometimes you have to try new things. How will you know that a certain way of eating will or won’t work for you unless you’re willing to try?

Changing subjects: the seven freaking years of writing? That all came back to me as I took on a daunting assignment the past couple of days. I write an occasional blog as “the healthy quilter” for The Quilt Show daily blog. But that “occasional” stretched out into a months long absence, and the longer it went on, the more I felt guilty, and the more I DIDN’T write. So I came up with the idea to take an entire day, and write a year’s worth of blogs (12) in one day. Oh, and the blogs are mainly recipe recommendations. So I spent about 12 hours searching my archives, looking over recipes, trying out recipes, finding photos of food, and then writing all about how tasty and delicious that food was! Fun????

Well, the fun part was that I did find some good old recipes of my own, and a couple of new ones that I am going to try out. This morning I had my Almond Joy Oatmeal (extra yummy,) and yesterday I had a brand new try–Crispy Oatmeal. It was super yummy, and I think might become my new winter BFF. This was all for one of the blogs that I titled “Oatmeal Three Ways.” The third way was Overnight Oats, which is also good, but its cold. And I’m pretending that its getting to be fall around here. Tonight I’m going to have one of the salads that I recommended. Got all the ingredients, and ready to go!

Here’s another thing I’ve been thinking about. Controlling your food environment is a very good thing. If its not in the house, you really will find something that will satisfy you that (hopefully) is a better, healthier choice. If it IS in the house, it is going to get eaten (I’m looking at you, Costco-big-bag-o-snacks.)

Well, that’s more than enough chit chat for one morning! I’m off to try to get back into my quilting groove!

Not Perfect

I just returned from a week long trip to the Bay Area and Cambria. And as usual, when I travel, my food and exercise regime is severely interrupted. I eat different food than I eat at home. I eat more food. I eat sugar and wheat freely (two things I minimize in my normal daily diet.) I drink less water and more coffee. I give a half-hearted nod to exercise. And since many times my travel involves quilt or rug hooking workshops, I spend way more time sitting for extended periods of time.

All that to say that when I was driving home, I said to my friend “I gained ten pounds this week!” And I truly felt like that.

Long time readers will know that I don’t believe in weighing yourself after any travel time. I do believe that just the actual physical traveling can make you retain water and/or pounds and can affect your weight. So I usually won’t weigh myself for a full week after I return from a trip. But this time, I wanted to see if my estimate was right. Sure enough, my weight was up 9 pounds from when I weighed myself the day before I left on this trip. Four pounds are already gone in 2 days. Interesting.

Sometimes this travel bit is distressing to me. Why do I think its free season on food consumption when I travel? Why can’t I get it under control? Why do I gain so much weight when I travel, when I’m really not eating any more than the “regular people?”

Well, coming home, and comfortably slipping back into my regular routine, with no longings for wheat or sugar, and extra doses of fruits and veggies, is always reassuring to me.

And yesterday, when I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that I am not yet perfect. It just made me laugh at myself. I really only share this stuff in case it is helpful to someone working on (imperfectly) maintaining weight loss. I hope it might be encouraging.

Diet Fatigue… and a Maintenance Experiment

Diet Fatigue. Its not something I’ve seen defined anywhere. But I bet all of you who have ever been on a diet know what I am talking about. Sometimes it wears on you, all this thinking and restricting and counting and denying…whatever your particular form of dieting happens to be at this particular time.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. That is, I started this last weight loss adventure over 10 years ago. I have been “maintaining,” more or less, for over 8 years. I guess I won’t talk about anybody else’s experience, but for me, maintaining has been an ongoing tension between a diet mindset and trying to “normalize” my relationship with food. One thing that’s been consistent about my maintenance: I have consistently gained and lost between 10 and 20 pounds over the years.

So right now, I’m tired. I’m really really tired. Bah to diets. A couple of weeks ago, on my way home from church, I bought a particular junk food baked item that I love. I’ve probably had 3 of them in the past 10 years. And I ate it on the way home. 430 delicious calories. And then I proceeded to feel “bad” about that choice for the rest of the way home. And it made me mad, that I couldn’t even enjoy a treat without angst. And I remembered for the first time in a long time why I had said “I will never diet again,” and I “maintained” a weight of 257.5 (haha, I have to laugh that the .5 was so consistent when I used to weigh back then) for over 20 years. My mind flashed on all the candy bars I ate every day (that I never eat now) and I wanted to eat all of them, right now! Fortunately, I mostly got over that feeling by the time I got home. And, BTW, its only a 20 minute drive from the grocery store to my house🙂

So I decided to try an experiment. You know how some folks say you are sabotaging yourself by restricting your calories? So I decided to try eating more. Mind you, I’ve tried this many times over the years, and sadly, it never works for me. The rules are different for the formerly severely overweight person. ANYWAY, the experiment. I decided to log my food into LoseIt. Bu I would not worry if I went a little over their calorie allotment for me. After all, that calorie allotment was supposed to be for weight loss, and that was not my goal for this experiment. My goal was to not GAIN any weight, which is a constant worry for me. And I would log ALL my exercise, and eat all those “exercise calories” if I wanted to. I would only weigh once a week to make sure this crazy plan was not leading to weight gain.

I know for most of you, this will just be another form of dieting. But for me it was reassuring to have the parameters of logging food and exercise and weighing once a week while I experimented with eating more than normal.

I’m pretty sure I ate more than I usually do, and I did eat without guilt or angst. I’m pretty sure I exercised a little more. I think LoseIt was pretty generous with their exercise calories, but I just went with it. And the result of the experiment? For five weeks I maintained the same weight. One week it would be two pounds up, and another it would be two pounds down. But for five weeks, my weight was very consistent.

Diet fatigue doesn’t last forever. And this experiment will not last forever. According to most experts, change in your diet and exercise is actually a good thing for long term weight loss. So if you’re feeling tired, don’t throw in the towel. Give yourself a little grace, and try something new or different.

Thinking About Food… or Not

Frequently, I read weight loss bloggers lamenting the amount of thinking they have to do about food in order to lose weight and/or maintain that weight loss. I have periodically complained about that myself on this blog.

But first I want to point out that there are at least two different ways that I (and maybe you) think about food.

The first is the way we are usually thinking when we complain. The obsessive “can I eat this?” or “will this fit into my points/calorie allotment/food plan?” This thinking is what wears us out.

The second thinking we can do about food is completely pleasurable. You know I watch a lot of food shows. Those chefs think a LOT about food. They love everything about it, like an artist enjoys his paints and canvases (or fabric and thread🙂 ) I enjoy reading and then trying a new recipe. I love to think about how I can increase the flavor of something without adding calories. Re-working a recipe to make it healthier, so I can enjoy it on a regular basis, is more fun than doing a jigsaw puzzle. Okay, bad example. Jigsaw puzzles aren’t really that fun. Anyway, there is no reason to eliminate this kind of thinking.

For most of us, we will always have to be vigilant, and we will have to spend some time thinking and planning our meals so that we can lose weight or maintain a weight loss. But there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the amount of thinking you have to do.

  • Find a basic assortment of “favored” healthy foods that you enjoy.
  • Keep those foods stocked in your refrigerator.
  • Batch cook, and freeze in individual portions.
  • Watch for new recipes, or experiment yourself with different ways of combining your favored foods.

The longer you continue to eat in a certain way, the more familiar you become with the nutritional information and calorie count of those foods. I’m not talking about eating the same three foods over and over. You can have a pretty diverse diet without having to think too much at all.

As much as I enjoy food and food preparation and baking and cooking, it might surprise people to observe me for a week. Many days I don’t do any cooking at all. It is more assembling or thawing. This works very well for me. I don’t really have to do much thinking at all. I already know the calorie count of so many of the foods I eat. I still use my measuring cups to portion out things like yogurt and cottage cheese. I have a food scale on the counter for when I do need to weigh food. Sometimes I track my food online, and sometimes I just write it on a scrap of paper. Lots of times my food choices are so familiar that I just track it in my mind.

Think about food now. Its like practicing the piano. Pretty soon you will be able to play that melody (or make a healthy meal) without thinking about it at all.