Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yesterday I discovered that morbidly obese people have mold that grows inside their folds of fat. Think of that next time the urge for something unhealthy gets to you. If that's not motivation I don't know what is. Most people do a lot to avoid mold in their own home, let alone on their own bodies.

Similarly, while at work yesterday I had multiple conversations with customers about the difference between US and Canadian Starbucks, namely we discussed the presence of excess sugar in US drinks. Not because the drink formulas are different (as far as I know they aren't), but because people don't tend to order things half-sweet, or whipped-cream free as frequently in the USA as they do in Canada. It is no secret that the United States has an obesity problem, and while obese people do live in Canada, I have found, particularly in Vancouver, which is known for its active population, that there are fewer overweight people in general. Of course this makes it harder for those people who are overweight because they feel out of place and consistently embarrassed because of their size (or at least I did), but on the other hand it means the resources are there for anyone with the desire to change their lives. What's more the presence of these resources generally results in a greater awareness of health and well-being, explaining the frequent requests I get for drinks with non-fat milk, half the amount of syrup, or sugar-free syrup altogether.

For me, personally, food is a challenge. I love to eat. Indeed, my boyfriend and I consider ourselves foodies, and often joke that the money most college-students spend on beer, we spend on expensive meals for anniversaries and birthdays. We just really enjoy good food. Of course, food at nice restaurants, particularly in Vancouver, tends to be organic, of high quality and (mostly) reasonable portion sizes, but still fried in a ton of butter (because that is the true secret to delicious restaurant cooking), and high in calories. The combination of my love of food and desire for health, however, has resulted in a new way of eating.

A few years ago, two Vancouver reporters decided to eat local for a year, the resulting book: "The 100 Mile Diet" documents their year of local eating. Now, I'll be the first to admit that we don't eat 100% local, but we do eat about 95% organic, and buy any local produce available. Some things, like bananas, are simply not grown in BC, but other things, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, onions, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes... are grown in BC, and we make sure to buy them. The limits placed on our diet by our focus on local, organic food is that these food products tend to be more 'whole,' and generally contain fewer preservatives, and other chemicals. By focusing on something we really believe in, my boyfriend and I have taken our love of food and use it as an outlet to express some of our beliefs while indulging in organic local food which really does taste better than conventional food that has traveled thousands of miles to get to us.

That's not to say I don't still frequent restaurants, I do, but when I do I try to make conscious decisions about what I am ordering, and hell, it is ok to cheat, sometimes. Birthdays and anniversaries only come around a couple times a year.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today I am going for a run, coming home, likely having smoothies for lunch (as we accidentally left the fridge unplugged and all our carefully frozen fruit is now unfrozen and must be used in the next few days for fear of losing about 30 bucks worth of organic, local fruit from the UBC farm market. We also must now make large quantities of pasta sauce to freeze as we had two pounds of organic extra-lean ground beef in the freezer as well which defrosted and can only be refrozen once cooked... I know what we're doing tomorrow), and then heading out to the climbing gym, before having to be at work at 4:30.

Yesterday I had a brilliant run. 4.14 miles in 45 minutes... it felt perfect, amazing... My mind cleared and I focused in on what I was doing and just went for it. I love that moment, about five minutes into a run when your muscles start to warm up, and your breathing hits its pace and everything just comes together. It's perfect and it's why I run.

Lately, I've been having a lot of the same conversation, it goes something like this:
Person x: "Wow, you look tiny, have you lost weight?"
Me: "Yeah, well since September I've been working to take off a lot of weight, I'm down 45 pounds now."
Person x: "That's amazing, how did you do it?"
Me: "By working out, and eating well. You know I'm at the gym six days a week, I started by biking, then the elliptical, and then running, now I run about 20 miles a week." (Sometimes I mention, the trainer, sometimes I don't. I realize it isn't something everyone can afford. For me, it was the right decision, and I don't think I could have been as successful without his help, but it was also a rather personal decision to hire him and I don't share that with everyone).
Person x: "Oh wow, I have good weeks sometimes but I don't always make it to the gym, and I could never run, besides I always have to force myself to exercise because I hate it."

This conversation, I'm sorry to say, annoys me. Anyone with enough determination (barring medical complications) can do this. It takes dedication, and yes, the first two months are hard. Forcing yourself to make time for exercise, and pushing yourself through workouts which are frankly more than just slightly uncomfortable takes dedication and mental force, but it is certainly doable. I had to force myself to go to the gym everyday for nearly two months until I realized I felt better if I worked out than if I didn't. Until I found myself addicted to the adrenaline rush, and endorphin high that follows exercising. Until I realized I'm a bitch to everyone around me if I don't get a good workout in.

Making time for the gym isn't easy, but is well worth it. I understand that people are busy, they have work, and other complications, but investing that extra hour in themselves everyday might just change their lives. Hell, it certainly changed mine.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I find I compose posts while running... And promptly forget them as soon as I get home or step off the treadmill. But they're always brilliant, I promise.

Tuesday I met with my trainer, which involved the usual sets of sit-ups, 30-45 second planks, twists, squats, and pull-ups, which are our latest project. I can now do three, so long as you provide me with a ten second break between each one. Still, for a girl who a year ago would hang from a bar, pull desperately and get nowhere, I think it's pretty damn good.

Wednesday I had my schedule messed up by being called into work two hours earlier than expected. I therefore ran off to the gym at 8:30, which is a bit early for me... I really do best after 10:00 am. I got through twenty minutes on the treadmill, and ended up doing the last 25 on the elliptical as I never really managed to find my pace. Probably should not have given up so quickly, but at least I got the full workout in before going to my first day at my new store and realizing that my manager was not lying about us being crazy busy.

Thursday was my best run of the week. I ended up at the gym at about 3:00pm, did a five minute walk warmup, and then another ten minutes at 5.1 mph before kicking the speed up to 5.6 for five minutes, then down to 5.2 for five, and up to 5.7 for five, down to 5.3, up to 5.8 down to 5.4 and then up to 6 for three minutes, and then 6.5 for a minute and 7 for my last minute. Ok, so not super fast compared to what many people can run at, but I finished 4.14 miles in 45 minutes which is the fastest and farthest I have ever run. What's more the whole thing felt awesome. The entire run took place in that perfect tingly, happy, 'I feel like I'm flying' state of being. That awesome adrenaline rush at which point I am absolutely positive that I can make it down to 150/140 lbs. That all this weight wont come back on because how could it when I feel SO good about myself right now? Running makes me feel powerful and capable, and proud of myself. I love being able to say "I am a runner."

A caveat to close this entry from a recent event: last week I decided that my old running shoes were dead. I've had them for three years, I have been running 15-20 miles a week in them for the last six months, therefore all the padding and support was gone. So the boyfriend and I decided to go down to the local running shop, you know one of those places where they look at how you walk and give you the best shoe? Anyway, we get there, I tell the guy I'm looking for running shoes. He does the usual foot-examining thing and then before he goes to get shoes he turns and asks me, "so is this just a casual, occasional running thing?" As if a person of my size could hardly be a serious runner. Could hardly have the goal of finishing a marathon by the end of next year. I shook my head, no, and informed him I run about 20 miles a week at this point, not much compared to some, but enough to need a good running shoes, because I am a runner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So I've held off on shopping for the last year (mostly), figuring that anything I bought was an absolute waste of money as it would be too big in roughly three months. But yesterday, seeing as I am now down 45 pounds, I decided to reward myself, just a little, buy some things that could either be altered to fit in six months or that were over-sized anyway, and therefore likely to fit regardless of my size.

Now shopping is something I have always loved. Because I carried the bulk of my weight in my lower half I could always find tops, despite my size. Jeans were a challenge, but a few years ago I discovered that Lucky brand easy-riders in a size 32 fit me, and I proceeded to live in them for the last four years. Problem was, I adore jeans. Designer denim is an obsession of mine even though pulling on a pair was impossible until recently.

Every few months, in hopes of a miracle, I'd go to Holt Renfew, ask for a pair of jeans in a mid rise, with a bootleg or flare to balance out my lower half, in the biggest size they carried (32), and fail to fit into them. Two years ago now, I bought a pair of Paige jeans in hopes that I would soon, because I was of course on one of my many failed weight-loss kicks at the time, fit into them. The first time I actually fit comfortably into the Paiges was in April, a year and eight months after purchasing them. Now those Paige's are heading towards the 'too-big' end of the spectrum.

The real challenge for me though, was the skinny jean. Hours of scouring denim-blogs have revealed to me just how truly flattering the skinny jean can be when worn right, and I've been dying to get to the point where instead of looking like a fat girl trying to squeeze herself into slim-fitting clothing, I look, not celebrity-thin (something I should mention, I do not aspire to), but good in a pair of skinnies.

So yesterday, I decided, seeing as my Paiges were almost too big I would go shopping. I had to drop my boyfriend off downtown anyway, so I figured now was as good a time as any. I started at American Eagle. I had never been able to fit into their size 14 jeans and wanted to see if now I could. I grabbed a few pairs, and pulled them on, and promptly pulled them off; without unbuttoning them. The 12s were still a bit big, the 10s a bit tight. I was nearing a size 10, or a 30 in designer sizing. Not small by any means, but better than I'd ever been in my life.

I left American Eagle, without having bought anything, but with a giant grin on my face as I headed down to Aritzia, a much hated store by many for being overpriced and filled with small sizes, but almost as much a mecca for designer denim as Holt Renfrew not to mention having a serious sale. The girls set me up with a pair of Paige skinnies and a pair of Current/Elliot ones. Although I didn't end up buying them, I had to size down the Paige jeans to a 31, after which point I did a silent victory dance in my change room. Designer denim sizing is notoriously small, and with rises getting lower every year, the fact that my butt fit into a size 31 is significant. I fully expected to leave with the Paiges, but after trying on the Current/Elliots I was in love. The dark denim wash, the oversized pockets on the back and the way my legs looked in them, I left with them instead, as well as a beautiful dark green top and this gorgeous oversized draped sweater that is the coziest thing in the world. The bill made me cringe, despite the sale, but it was so absolutely worth it, because I own a gorgeous pair of skinny jeans that make me look and feel so damn good.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

45 lbs and Counting

So, back in September, I hit the tipping point. I was 21, weighed 214 pounds, wore a size 16 jean, and even carefully posed pictures in which I sucked in my stomach, tried to stand in a way that made my legs look long, couldn't hide it. I was fat. My BMI was 33.8 and my body fat percentage, which placed me indisputably in the obesity range, clocked in at 44%. My blood pressure was roughly 150/80 (which is considered rather high). Although my body's tendency to store fat in my butt and hips made me look about ten pounds lighter than my actual weight, the scale does not lie, and neither does a body fat percentage reading.

I did that thing people usually scoff at, and yet wish they could try, because who knows if it would actually make a positive, significant difference: I hired a trainer. He did not laugh when I told him my final goal was somewhere between 140 and 150 (a 60-70 pound weight loss), and he told me honestly that it would be slow, but it was possible. After a grueling maximum-heart-rate test and carefully examining the damage years of not exercising and eating too much had done to my body (my right side was much tighter than my left, and my hip joints so un-flexible I could barely complete a squat) he started me on a seven-day a week program which included an hour on the stationary bike five times a week, and meeting with him twice a week for a half hour of weight training followed by another half hour on the bike. I stopped snacking, cut down my portion sizes, and focused on eating whole, natural foods. I aimed for 1500 calories a day, although I did not always make it.

I lost six pounds in three weeks. I was ecstatic. It would be slow, but it was possible.

Today is August 9, almost a year since my September tipping point. The last time I checked, I weighed 170 pounds. I have lost 44 pounds. I still have 20-30 to lose, but I am not only convinced I can do it, I am excited to. I have in the past year discovered how much fun healthy food can be. My boyfriend and I now scour the weekly farmers market, and organic grocery stores looking for local, ethically sourced food which we can feel proud to eat. My love of food remains, it simply has a different manifestation. Equally as important, however, I have found a new addiction: running. After three months of biking, and two on the elliptical my trainer suggested I try running in 15 minute intervals with five minute walk breaks in between, soon it was twenty minute intervals, then 30, then I ran for a full 45 minutes, without any breaks, and it felt unbelievable. My goal is to run a marathon next summer. Although I am starting with a 10k this November.

My trainer recently recommended I do a blog, to inspire others he said, but its more than that too. Its for me, its so that I recognize, and realize what I am accomplishing on those days where I struggle, and its so that five, ten, fifteen years down the line I remember, how these last thirty pounds came off.