Saturday, December 31, 2011

9 Miles and a New Year

I suppose I should be writing a year-in-review and something like a resolution post but I'm just not up for it.  Maybe later this week.  I don't plan to make any resolutions, but maybe I'll put a few goals out there.  We'll see.  I certainly won't be making any weight loss goals for the coming year.  I've already registered for two events so those are easy targets.  Anyway, on to more pressing matters.

I did that 5 mile run this past Thursday - on the treadmill.  And it nearly was the death of me.  I have decided 5 miles on the treadmill crosses a line for me.  It's just too far.  I found myself getting very negative in my head during that last mile and all the mental work that went into keeping my legs moving for that long was just too exhausting.  Instead of getting off feeling content with myself I got off feeling irritated.  That's not good.  So, no more treadmill runs over 4 miles.  At least not for a good long while, until I have some reason to believe things will be different.

The only sort-of cool thing was that I maintained a 5mph pace the whole time.  I did some intervals but averaged out to 5mph so that was good.  I had legs/shoulders/core to do after and when I tried to drop into my first lunge I thought my legs would melt.  I was able to do a couple sets.  Fortunately I was pressed for time so that, coupled with my wiped legs from the run, left me doing only two sets of everything instead of three.  And let me tell you, I was fine with that.  You know I'm not one of those no pain, no gain people.

I'll sneak in a word here about my weigh-in this week.  2.6 pounds down!!  Wait...what?  I eat a ton and I lose the most I've lost in months?!  Wouldn't it be nice if I've not been eating enough?  That's a nice thing with WW, if you're tracking you know, roughly, how many calories you're eating and can compare week-to-week how that affects things.   But I'm not ready for WW yet so I'll just carry on for now.

Friday was a day off from training and I was lucky enough to receive an invite to share some wine at a mom friend's house after work.  The kids ran around like the crazed maniacs they are while a few of us sat around drinking wine and eating pizza.  I posted about my debauchery on Facebook noting, "it's not cheating, it's carb loading" (though I concede wine is not the idea).  Anyway, I had a great time.  As soon as I got home I promptly drank a huge glass of water and hit the sack.  I just realized this is the second week in a row when I drank the night before my Saturday run.  I blame the holidays.

I got up on Saturday feeling fine, thank goodness.  We took the kids to BADM for some new year fun.  I had the 9 mile run planned for the afternoon and I found myself wondering how all this morning activity would leave me come run-time.  Fortunately a friend I texted to run with me was up for the challenge!  (Thanks Karen!!)  We left the house around 3:30pm and ran until dark.  As we neared the end we cut through a park and boy was I glad I wasn't alone!  I might have been a bit nervous by myself.

Whew!  Those were some long miles.  We did 2 loops that involved a couple good sized hills and then decided we were done with big hills so we tacked on two mostly flat loops after that.  I ate two shot blox at mile 3 and mile 6 and I think I ate another one at mile 8.  I'm not sure, my brain was getting foggy around then.  This 13.1 mile thing should be verrry interesting.  My knees were hurting a bit, the back more than the front, and my hips were happy to be done too.  I'd call it a good run - not fantastic (I blame the hills) but certainly not bad.  I forgot to stop my garmin when we stopped so I'm not sure what my official pace was but I'd guess somewhere between 12.5 and 13 minute miles.  Some of that were the brief water and route discussion stops, some were the hills and some were just me being slow.  As usual, I am just glad I got the miles in.

We wrapped up 2011 with Karen and her husband and cutie son over for dinner.  It was a nice, relaxing way to end the year after the longest run of my life thus far. 

I'm going to close with a few pictures of the kids from our outing today.  These two little buggers are giving me the time of my life and I couldn't be more grateful for their energy and love!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

More Thoughts on "The Fat Trap"

So I've been thinking more about that article, The Fat Trap, which I just wrote about yesterday.  I'll tell you the truth, I got somewhat angry after reading that.  I think it was the hopelessness of it that ticked me off.  I see so much hope, so much opportunity for change, so much potential for growth - that article is just the opposite, a big downer.  I've concluded that the author, Tara, is working through some food/weight issues and trying to figure the whole mess out.  And it is a mess.  We get so many mixed messages, so many theories and systems of weight loss - it's hard to know what the "right" thing to do is.

Anyway, these are the points I want to add to my last post.

1.  Tara describes 1-2 hours of exercise a day like it's an extreme amount.  But I'd want to dig deeper.  Are these people sedentary the rest of the day?  What's their muscle mass like? 

2.  Build muscle.  It burns more calories than fat and makes life easier.  Being strong feels good and makes this whole thing more fun.  The article didn't touch on this at all really.

3.  And by the way, what's 1 hour of exercise out of 24?  Not that much really.  I know busy - I have 2 small kids, a full time job and a household, husband and volunteer work to consider.  Some days I'm squeezing in the exercise at 8pm, other days it's 5:30am.  It's not always easy, though sometimes it is.  Like when I go for a run while the kids are napping.  You don't have to wait until you retire to get in shape.  I know you have a down hour somewhere - use it to exercise.

4.  What do you want to bet that all the other things Tara seemed to characterize as extreme are actually a daily habit, a part of these folks' lives that they don't consider a burden anymore.  Like logging their food, weighing it, planning what to eat at a restaurant.  None of that sounds so extreme to me.  Then again, some people would look at my blog and say, "oh right, I have to do triathlons to get in shape?"  No, but they're fun.  And not as hard as they look!

5.  The article was validating too. I remember reading some years back about Oprah essentially giving up on being thin.  I think she said something about having to run 8 miles a day to maintain her weight and she just wasn't up for that.  I found that to be incredibly validating.  I felt like I too had a body that required extreme behavior to keep weight off.  Sometimes it's reassuring to hear that this really is that hard.  All that said, I think I was missing a lot of knowledge back then.  I didn't know about strength training and how important muscle is in this whole thing.  I didn't really understand balance and I certainly didn't have the drive I do now because I hadn't yet found physical activity I enjoyed.  That final piece is a tough one, to enjoy the physical activity you have to be in decent shape.  So it takes a while, but hang in there, it will come.  And when it does - you will LOVE it!!

Ok, enough about that article, I have to move on.

A little exercise update.  The funny thing is I thought I was squeezing in an extra run on the 25th to balance my food intake.  Nope, I was supposed to run that day!  Good thing I did.  I forgot that I'd re-arranged my workout schedule due to my gym being closed.

Anyway, on Monday I hit the gym and did the bike for 25 minutes followed by chest/triceps/core work.  The pushups were hard again.  Ugh, will they ever get easy?  And I threw in some leg extensions (even though it wasn't "leg" day) because I'm worried my quads are getting weak.  The bike is harder than it should be.  I think it's all the running combined with dropping leg extensions.  So I'm going to do leg extensions whenever I can squeeze them in.

Tuesday was a planned day off and Wednesday (yesterday) I was planning to get up at 0'dark hundred to go to the gym before Miguel left for work.  But I had a sore throat and couldn't pry myself out of bed.  Fortunately Miguel is getting off a bit early this week so I went after he got home.  I did the bike again followed by back/biceps/core work.  Bam!  I felt like I really killed it with the weights.

The rest of this week is packed with fun.  If you can call it that.  I have a 5 mile run on the agenda today and a 9 mile run on Saturday.  The loop I ran this past Saturday has a couple good hills so I think I'm going to do that 3 times.  It's time to add some hills or they are going to knock me on my butt come half-marathon time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is Being Fat Really a Trap?

I can see the marketing world gearing up.  More ads for exercise equipment, "diet" plans, and other things to tempt us into spending money to kick-start our fitness goals.  I hope you're feeling motivated as the new year approaches.  I know I am.  I hope 2012 is the year I *finally*, after what will be 5 years, reach my goal.  I could go on and on about how, in many ways, I've already reached my goal and so much more, but the number goal is still out there and that's the one I'm speaking of.

So many of us have been down this weight loss path before and for many of us it can start to feel like a lost cause.  But it's not.  Though I am a firm believer that how you go about losing weight matters.  A friend posted this article, The Fat Trap, from the New York Times and I found it thought provoking.   It's written by Tara Parker-Pope, a self proclaimed overweight person who's tried time-and-again to lose weight, only to end up heavier in the end.

In summary it proposes that once we become fat our bodies strive to re-gain the lost weight.  That hormonally we are driven to seek out those lost pounds, otherwise we stay in starvation mode.  I've heard various reasons for this over the years, empty "fat" cells just waiting to be plump again is the one I've heard most often.

The thing that gets me is that in the first study Tara cites they put participants on a starvation diet
...the extreme low-calorie diet, which consisted of special shakes called Optifast and two cups of low-starch vegetables, totaling just 500 to 550 calories a day for eight weeks.
After 10 weeks on this "diet" participants lost an average of 30 pounds.  Does the following come as a surprise to anyone?
After a year, the patients already had regained an average of 11 of the pounds they struggled so hard to lose. They also reported feeling far more hungry and preoccupied with food than before they lost the weight.
I know it doesn't surprise me.  They were starving for 10 weeks.  That's not a lifestyle change one can sustain.  And it obviously wreaks havoc on the body.
A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost. For instance, a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study. Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.
What I want to challenge here is the conclusion that "dieting" will leave you worse off than when you started.  I think the conclusion should be something more like extremely low-calorie diets will leave you worst off than when you started
“What we see here is a coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight,” Proietto says. “This, I think, explains the high failure rate in obesity treatment.”
NO, NO, NO!  What explains the high failure rate (in this case) is the extreme, un-maintainable, starvation diet.  And I believe that making changes that are not sustainable, trying to lose too fast, trying to make too many changes at once, trying to change yourself but not your environment, not finding exercise you enjoy - these are the causes of failure in maintenance.  You must make changes in  your life that you can sustain, for the long term, forever - or at least for as long as you want to be thin.
For years, the advice to the overweight and obese has been that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat.
This rubs me the wrong way.  I feel like I'm being told that no matter what I do, I'll probably become fat once again.  And if not me, than most of my peers on this journey.  And that just makes me mad.  Don't tell us that.

The article goes on to talk about a “biological determinism” that can make a person susceptible to weight gain or loss.  I think there must be some truth to that.  But while reporting on the genetic factor Tara noted this:
...after testing positive for fat-promoting genes, some people were more likely to eat fatty foods, presumably because they thought being fat was their genetic destiny and saw no sense in fighting it. 
Eeeexactly. And that's why I don't like this article.  Don't tell people they are likely doomed to fail based on a study that utilized a starvation diet for weight loss.  It's just not good science, in my humble, non-scientist, opinion.

Later in the article they talk about The National Weight Control Registry and go on ad-nausea about a woman who lost over 100 pounds, Janice Bridge, and how much she has to do to maintain that loss.  She's keeping a food log, weighing daily, measuring all her food, etc, etc.  The article says she "never" lets up and goes on about how she avoids sugar, white flour, etc... Tara (the writer of the article) feels overwhelmed and hopeless after hearing all this woman has to go through to maintain her weight loss. 
"Just talking to Bridge about the effort required to maintain her weight is exhausting. I find her story inspiring, but it also makes me wonder whether I have what it takes to be thin." 
But then Janice is sharing a Ben & Jerry's ice cream with her husband.  And she includes gardening as exercise.  So she does get to let up now and then.  Just not entirely.  It's called balance.  Janice is a food junkie (that's my preferred term) and is working to overcome a lifetime of bad habits coupled with using food for emotional fulfillment.

So ok, Janice Bridge has to eat 300 less calories a day to maintain her weight (than a person who was never fat).  300 calories is not a lot.   

Later the article references another study in which participants are placed on an 800 calorie diet and, lo-and-behold, they are "metabolically different than a similar-size person who is naturally the same weight."  Sure they are, after starving them.
After weight loss, when the dieter looked at food, the scans showed a bigger response in the parts of the brain associated with reward and a lower response in the areas associated with control. This suggests that the body, in order to get back to its pre-diet weight, induces cravings by making the person feel more excited about food and giving him or her less willpower to resist a high-calorie treat.  
But could it be that prior to weight loss they weren't as "excited" about food because they were indulging all the time?  But after becoming a "dieter" the food becomes more exciting?  I know that's been true for me.  Back when I posted my Top 10 Changes After Losing 67.4 Pounds my #4 change was "I actually enjoy junk food more since it's now a treat and not just an every day thing."  The kicker though, is that the areas of the brain responsible for restraint are less active.  Perhaps that's because the participants didn't really build restraint during their starvation, short-term, "quick" liquid diet.

Tara writes about another weight-loss success story.
She (Lynn) has also come to accept that she can never stop being “hypervigilant” about what she eats. “Everything has to change,” she says. “I’ve been up and down the scale so many times, always thinking I can go back to ‘normal,’ but I had to establish a new normal. People don’t like hearing that it’s not easy.”  
No, she can't go back to "normal".  But remember, Lynn's normal involved being 300 pounds.

They are addressing my concern.
One question many researchers think about is whether losing weight more slowly would make it more sustainable than the fast weight loss often used in scientific studies. Leibel says the pace of weight loss is unlikely to make a difference, because the body’s warning system is based solely on how much fat a person loses, not how quickly he or she loses it. Even so, Proietto is now conducting a study using a slower weight-loss method and following dieters for three years instead of one.
I still think they are missing a big point though.  It's not just losing weight slowly, but making sustainable changes, changes you can live with.  It's not about the pounds lost, it's about how they are lost.  That point couldn't have been made better than by Tara's statement here:
Losing a few pounds may be good for the body, but it does very little for the spirit and is unlikely to change how fat people feel about themselves or how others perceive them.
If it does little for the spirit, I suggest the person doing the losing needs to take another look at their goals and motivations.  I believe that there's hope for all of us.  I am in love with Tara's closing sentences...
"And even though all the evidence suggests that it’s going to be very, very difficult for me to reduce my weight permanently, I’m surprisingly optimistic. I may not be ready to fight this battle this month or even this year. But at least I know what I’m up against."
I would say this to Tara - yes, it's going to be hard.  Very hard. But not for the reasons you might think.  It's going to be hard to tap into that drive, to change your habits, to change your environment.  It's going to be hard to prioritize yourself, to learn new ways to cope. It might be hard to gain a higher level of fitness but the real challenge is in finding that physical movement, "exercise" that you enjoy. And yes, sometimes it's going to be hard to be hungry. 

I would say Tara - when you are ready, when you want it...go slow, make one change at a time, balance, move, do things you love that don't involve food ... to steal ww line - Stop Dieting, Start Living!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Run (or two)

Ahhh, I'm sitting down in a quiet, warm house while the kids are napping and Miguel is out picking up tamales.  The last couple of days were a blur as we neared today's big day.  Friday night we had an impromptu lounge-wear pizza (and salad) party at our place.  A few friends and their kids came over and we had a fun, relaxing evening.  I drank 3 glasses of wine!  And I liked it.

On Saturday Miguel got up and went mountain biking with his friends while I stayed home with the kids talking up Santa.  Fortunately the wine didn't interfere with my running plans.  A couple friends showed up to run with me.  We did a 5k loop from my house.  It was the first time I ran with someone other than Miguel and I felt like a real runner going down the street chatting with my two running partners (Thanks Danielle and Catherine!).  How cool!  We maintained a 12 minute mile pace without too much difficulty.  I think I can firmly say I have achieved that pace.  It's no longer a struggle.  I don't think I can keep it up on the long runs yet but that's something to strive for.

On Saturday evening we were lucky enough to get an invite for dinner at a neighbor's.  They have a little boy around Myra's age and a grandma was in town visiting and would be cooking dinner.  And boy did she!  She made a seafood dish she calls Sinfonía de Mariscos (Seafood Symphony).  Oh. my. goodness.  I don't go nuts about food very often but this had so many things I love.  Lobster, shrimp, scallops, salmon and it was in creamy mushroom sauce.  I went back for seconds.  And possibly thirds.  With all the champagne it's sort of foggy.  And then for desert she made fruit trifle!  All from scratch.  That picture was taken with my cell phone so it doesn't do it justice but you get the idea.

The meal was especially cool because my mom couldn't be in town.  She's in Southern California tending to my ill grandfather.  My mom makes a similar seafood dish and strawberry trifle is a signature dish of hers.  It felt like home.  Thank you Karen and Nestor for a great evening - so much fun!  Only bummer was we had to leave so early to put the kids to bed.  I was planning on taking Christmas day off from exercise but in the midst of all that eating I knew it would be a good idea if I went for a run.  I said this run would be "off the record" since it wasn't for training but just an effort to make a dent in some of those calories.  Miguel and I ended up staying up until after midnight putting toys together.  That tiny kitchen was a lot of work! But I will still hoping I'd get that run in.

We got up this morning and had tons of fun with the kids opening their presents.  Marek got a scooter and Myra got a little kitchen and an easel.  The whole thing was perfect and I can't believe this is my life.  My mom got me a garmin running watch, a forerunner 110.  I got it charging right away so I could use it on my run.  We got the kids out to the local high school track after lunch.  The kids kicked around the soccer ball while I did 13 laps around the 1/4 mile loop.  According to the garmin I maintained a sub-12 minute mile (11:47, 11:44,11:20) for all three miles.  Really?  I'm skeptical.  I was trying to hurry on that last mile so I'm not surprised that was faster.  Maybe the totally flat track allowed me to run faster than usual?  How trustworthy are these garmins?  Miguel took that picture of me with his cell phone.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much smaller I'm looking these days. Anyway, it said I burned 461 calories so that's at least a dent in last night's meal. It was totally worth it though. I'd eat that meal right now if you put it in front of me!

We're having another big dinner tonight, steak and baked potatoes.  I'm turning the calorie watch off for one more evening and then tomorrow it's back to reality.  I plan to drink a few more glasses of wine before the night is over.  Well, I'd better wrap this up and get back to the celebrating with my family.  Blogging always reminds of my goals, which is good, even when I'm indulging!

Oh!  I want to share a cool thing Miguel got me for Christmas (besides my electric teakettle for the office).  It's a wall thing to hang race bibs on.  I love it! 

Alright, I'm signing off.  Before I go - To all those celebrating this holiday season I wish you a healthy, active winter!!  I'll close with our 2011 installment of a photo with Santa.