Archive for the ‘leverage’ Category

The Christmas Pants (otherwise known as leverage)

Before heading home for the holidays, I took a long hard look at the closet. And instead of going for glamour, which would be lost on my folks anyway, I decided to pack for leverage. In other words, I did what peak performance guru Anthony Robbins recommends: I packed my tightest jeans – you know, the ones that make overeating a near impossibility?

In my case it’s the size four bootcut jeans from the Gap. Though I also brought the ridiculously tight DKNY sixes. I wore the latter on Christmas Day, just to give myself some slack.

I am happy to say that I am sitting here (and breathing) in the fours (and yes, they have been washed and dried since last Thursday)!

Would I have been more comfortable if I’d done something a little less radical?

Undoubtedly.

Would I have been totally bummed out if I had gotten back home only to find that the jeans no longer fit had I left them in the drawer?

Most definitely.

All in all, the gain (or the relative lack thereof) was totally worth it!

Healthy Holidays!

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Cardio, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Up until about a month ago, I was a self-proclaimed cardio queen. Spinning, NordicTrack, StairMill, Elliptical, you name it. If it moved, and got me to move faster, I was all over it.

Somewhere along the line – somehow – I gave up on cardio and became a yoga junkie. Now, I had been trying to get into yoga for years, but I didn’t realize that to do so would undermine my first and (so I’d always thought) my truest love, that is, cardio.

So early on in this blog, I said that the reason that I started blogging was to “remind myself of what I know to be true.” Today I am going to remind myself (and maybe you as well) of why I love cardio (and maybe why you do too).

And I am going to do this so that when I forget, as I have forgotten in the recent weeks while I have been focused on making micro adjustments and opening up my chest, I can go back and remember. Hopefully, just the act of of writing this down will get these reasons back into my consciousness and, given that I am such an abysmal typist, into my body!

This morning, after much negotiating, I decided to hit the NordicTrack and just go for it. I put on my favorite music and hit it for about an hour. This is what I noticed:

  1. It really feels good to move my body.
  2. I like the way it feels when I’m sweating the toxins of the day (or in this case, the week) out of my body.
  3. I love knowing that I am training my heart to be more efficient.
  4. Now that I know that it’s cardio exercise that allows your body to absorb calcium into the bones, thus preventing osteoporosis, I enjoy imagining actually feeling my bones getting stronger.
  5. I love how my body feels when I stop.
  6. I really enjoy the slight fatigue I feel in my limbs after a good cardio workout, even though my mind feels alert and refreshed.
  7. I’ve noticed that I often get my best ideas in the morning while I’m doing cardio – no doubt due to the increased oxygen flow to the brain.
  8. I get to feel superior when I write -500 (or whatever it happens to be) into my daily calorie/food journal.  (Today it was -754 since I followed up my cardio with 30 minutes of resistance training.)
  9. I get an amazing sense of satisfaction from knowing that by strengthening my heart (see #3), I’m making it easy for every part of my body to get the blood and the oxygen it needs.
  10. I love contrasting where I am now with the unhealthy (but nonetheless intelligent, creative, and determined) teenager that I once was who couldn’t make it up a half flight of stairs without panting.

As I sit here compiling this list, I realize that I could go on for a really long time.  There are many, many reasons why I love cardio.  But the main reason I love cardio is because I love myself.  And engaging in cardiovascular exercise is a great way to take care of my most valuable resources – my body, my health, my mood, and my emotions. 

So with that said, I’ll just leave you with my Top Ten.

Hopefully when I get up tomorrow, I will remember my list and I won’t have to argue with myself, I’ll just do it.  Because as is the case with most things that are good for me, showing up with 75% of the problem.  Once I get going, I’m golden.

What’s your compelling reason that gets you out of bed and into your exercise shoes in the morning (or to the gym after work)?  I’d love to hear it!

p.s. Hopefully I’ll figure out a way to love both cardio and yoga, as one is the perfect complement to the other!

Never eat standing up!

Remember that old wives’ tale, “It doesn’t count if you’re standing up”? Or was it just wishful thinking?

Regardless, according to Judith S. Beck, author of The Beck Diet: How to Think Like a Thin Person,” you should never put anything in your mouth while you’re standing up and that includes while you’re walking.

Why does it matter if I eat standing up versus sitting down?

Because people tend to eat more and more quickly when they’re standing or walking than they do when they’re sitting.

Although this seems like a fairly simple rule, you may be surprised how effective it can be.

For instance, abiding my this single rule practically eliminates the bad habit of tasting – otherwise known as snacking – while you cook!

It also has the potential to eliminate or at least drastically reduce the terrible habit that a lot of women (especially wives and mothers) have picked up of cleaning not only their own plates, but the plates of everyone else in the family as they clear the table after a meal!

Additionally, people who don’t abide by this rule are less likely to count (or even notice) the calories they eat standing up, at least not to the degree they are likely to do when they take the time to prepare a meal or snack and sit down to eat it! Dr. Beck also suggests, by the way, that you limit your eating to the dining room, which means eliminating eating at your desk, in front of the television, etc!

Never eating while standing up also cuts down on a lot of impulse snacking, including the elimination of store samples that on any Friday night in a reputable grocery store can add up to well over 500 calories before you even realize it between the goodies offered at the bakery, the deli, the produce isle, and the prepared foods section. And let’s not even get into how quickly the calories can rack when you stop for the four to six samples of beer and or wine!

Never eating while standing up also has the potential to cut out trips to the office candy jar! Because if you’re like me, if the candy doesn’t go immediately into my mouth, I can usually talk myself out of it before I get to my desk. Same thing with all of the office “goodies” that all of the would-be pastry chefs in my office bring in on most days that end in “Y”! However, if I do actually wait to eat something until I get to my desk, chances are that I’ve made a conscious decision to eat it and, thus, will record it in my food diary!

If you really want to cut down on all of the standing up calories that you consume without usually even realizing it, just stop and sit down. If you’re cooking, ladle whatever it is to a small measuring cup and go sit for a moment. Chances are the smaller amount will cool faster and you’ll get a better idea of what it really tastes like. And if you use a measuring spoon or cup to taste, you’ll be able to keep track of the calories! Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to think they don’t, the calories we eat standing up really matter! A calorie is a calorie, no matter what you’re position you’re in when you consume it!

Tip for the day: If you’re ravenous after a workout, don’t just grab a handful of grapes or chips straight out of the bag. Instead, take a deep breath, decide what you want, take a moment to count (or measure) whatever it is out, put in in or on a small serving dish, and sit down. Just by taking that extra thirty seconds you’ll increase your awareness of 1) what it is that you actually want (instead of just stuffing something in your face), 2) the calories you’re consuming and 3) the taste of whatever it is that you were hungry for to begin with.

If you really want to develop this habit quickly, set up a “tip” jar in your kitchen and/or office. Every time you find yourself (or, if you have a good support system, whenever someone else finds you) eating on your feet, throw a dollar in there. Eventually, usually about the time that you’ve developed the habit, you’ll have enough saved to take yourself (and probably someone else) to a nice sit-down dinner!

Moving Toward v. Moving Away

I’ve been doing some learning about the way people make transformations or change in their lives. Typically people are motivated by their hopes and aspirations (that is, what they want to happen or that which they are moving toward) or their fears and frustrations (that is, what they don’t want to happen or continue happening, or that from which they are moving away).

As a general rule, people are much more likely to be motivated by their fears than by their aspirations. Part of that may be that they are unable to fully realize or envision their aspirations, whereas it’s much easier to imagine their greatest fears (especially if they are already living them).

When I started my weight release journey three years ago, I had a really hard time envisioning what I wanted to accomplish. Then, one day, I was over at a friend’s house and I was looking at a selection of framed photos of her around her living room.

“See, I was thin once,” she said matter of fact-ly. “When X is over, I will be again.”

I was floored. And jealous. And, in that moment, it hit me why it’d been so hard to visualize what I wanted. I had no pictures of myself as I wanted to be!

Now, when I was in Weight Watchers, my leader used to talk about visualization and about how you should find the body of your dreams from a magazine and then put your face on it. I also remember thinking: Give me a break!

When I realized that part of my inability to visualize had something to do with never having seen it (what can I say, I’m not a visual person), I decided that I was going to take Judi’s advice, albeit some twenty years after I first heard it. But I didn’t do it using magazines and scissors, I did it via modern technology. Five cheers for photo manips!

The first thing I did was find the photo. I ended selecting a stock photo of Jillian Michaels. I then had Michael take a picture of me standing in the same position, with my head tilted just so. He then used Photoshop (or some other similar software) to create a photo that we joking call KJillian!

The first time I looked at the photo, I had to look away. I thought, ‘How embarrassing.’ In fact, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that it literally hurt to look at it. Seriously, the dissonance was staggering. I literally had to keep it in a manila folder on my kitchen counter. However, over the course of a week, I got used to seeing myself like that. And as the image became more familiar to me, it also became more believable! Eventually, I put it up on the refrigerator.

Just as an aside, my little sister came over, looked at it and then looked at me and said, without batting an eyelash, “How did your head get on Jillian Michael’s body?” I told her. “Cool,” she said. Apparently not so embarrassing after all.

If you don’t have a picture about what you want to achieve (either in reality or in your mind’s eye), create one. Seriously. I’ll admit: thought it was the cheesiest thing in the world when it was first suggested to me, but it was incredibly powerful. In fact, it got to the point that when I would take pictures of myself (in similar clothes and in a similar position), I thought that they looked odd, which motivated me to move my reality towards the image in my head.

The same thing is true, by the way, if you have an image in your head of what you don’t want to be; you will become that. Remember, the one of the strongest human drives is self-consistency! My problem was, previously, that I saw myself as heavy or as someone who was 30 pounds overweight, so that’s what I created (over and over again). Bottom line: get rid of the bad images and bring on the good – even if you have to stoop to using Photoshop to do it!

Now that I have a solid image in my mind of what I want to move towards (that is, my head on Jillian Michael’s body or something similar), I sometimes also use moving away from – especially when I need a good kick in the pants, like a I did the day before yesterday, when I just could not get myself moving.

First, just writing that blog post helped, because I hate to admit that I can’t do something.

Second, I have a pair of pants that I bought at a consignment store. Technically they fit; however, I would never go out in public with them fitting the way they fit at the moment. Ironically, they are the smallest pair of pants that I own, but they make me look huge because they’re so tight.

Essentially, these are the “get leverage on yourself” or the “moving away from” pants. I put those on (to say that I just slipped into them would be a bald faced lie!) and all it took was five minutes standing in front of the mirror to get me down on the NordicTrack, followed up by my moving towards: Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred.

Are you a moving towards person or a moving away person? If you are primarily one, I strongly suggest mixing it up when you need a little extra motivation!

And if you don’t have a picture of what you want to achieve, get one – even if, especially if, you have to make it yourself!

Family insights — it’s not enough to want it

Last week, while visiting my parents, we went to a family funeral. The deceased was the mother of my mother’s sister’s husband. Or, to put it another way, she was the grandmother of my cousins, though she, herself, was not my grandmother.

The last time I saw some of these cousins — sadly enough — was at our grandfather’s funeral last August.

There, at the wake, one my cousins, referred to me as Skinny Minnie — in a good way. And she kept eying me suspiciously and mouthing: How did you get so skinny?

Well, that was 10 months and probably close to 15 pounds ago.

This time she came up to me and said, “I would love to be as thin as you.”

I smiled, thanked her for the lovely compliment and then said. “It’s not that hard, but it is a daily chore.”

And, she smiled — though hers didn’t quite meet her eyes — and sighed. “But it requires a degree of self-discipline that I just don’t have.”

My gut level reaction, which often gets me into trouble, was: Then you don’t want it bad enough!

But, given that she had just lost her third grandparent in less than a year, I kept my mouth shut.

I’ve thought a lot about that exchange. I’ve thought about why it is that some people (myself included) have decided that it’s no longer acceptable to be overweight (often to an unhealthy degree), whereas others are willing to live with it even though they want to change. I’ve also realized that some people just don’t care. Even though they are heavy, if not morbidly obese, they are seemingly okay with their limited physical ability and (in some cases) their deteriorating health.

Essentially, our exchange reminded me that it’s not enough to simply want it. You have to want it bad enough to actually do something about it. My cousin wanted to weigh less, but she didn’t want to have to do anything to make it happen.

When I first started this leg of my weight release program — about three years ago, when I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now — someone (that is, Tony Robbins) gave me this piece of advice.

1. Set a real goal that is motivating. Don’t just say you want to lose 10 pounds, because that’s not compelling. Say you want to lose 20 pounds of fat so that you stop having knee problems.

2. Make it a must! This means that you make decisions regarding your health and fitness that are every bit as binding as the decisions that my cousin makes when running her business or raising her child. You have to convince yourself that if you don’t do it, then something disastrous is going to occur — that is, your physical equivalent of bankruptcy! For me, it was the fear of knee replacement and/or carrying that 40 pounds into my forties. For others, it may be the nightmare of hypertension or diabetes.

3. Take quick and decisive action. As soon as you define that clear and compelling goal, take immediate action! It could be something like joining a gym, calling a friend and telling them that you’re going to lose 30 pounds of fat come hell or high water, joining Weight Watchers, or starting a new exercise program. But do something immediately! Do anything! Don’t just make the goal and hope it will happen, because that’s not doing, that’s wishing!

It’s not enough to want it. You have to want it bad enough to actually do something about it. Hopefully, when my cousin’s ready — if she ever gets ready — she’ll set a goal, make it compelling, and do something about it. Because, truly, it’s the only thing that’s going to get you where you want to be.

Update:

Thanks to a dissent from a reader, it’s also occurred to me to add that you don’t have to want it.

It’s perfectly fine to like yourself the way you are. In fact, it’s probably the best way to go.

Not everyone needs to be thin; in fact, being thin or skinny (God forbid) was never a particular goal of mine. However, regardless of size, I do think that people should try their hardest to be as fit as possible given their own particular set of circumstances.

Overview of the trip with the folks

I’ve been rereading my last couple of posts and it’s all about the food.

But the trip really was about lot more than that. It was nice to hang in my parents’ world for a while. And, equally important, they got to hang out in (or at least glimpse into) mine. Every morning I got up and exercised. Mostly long walks (ranging anywhere from an hour to an hour and half — or from 400 to 520 calories, depending on the temperature). But, on more than one occasion, my mother watched while I did K-bell Total Body Blast in her living room; my father, on the other hand, merely shook his head and headed outside.

I made them tabouli and salad. I hung with them. I hung with old friends. Mother and I went shopping, at malls as well as at garage scales. She didn’t say a word when I bought a pretty fitted pair of trousers for her to give me as a not only as a Christmas present, but as a fairly serious piece of leverage to see me through the summer and the fall holidays. She also didn’t say a word, other than it was nice, when I bought my first ever skimpy, spaghetti strap halter top. Well, she did ask if I’d ever really wear it!

From a diet/exercise perspective, it wasn’t that bad; in fact, it was actually quite good. Part of what made it so great is that my parents didn’t make any judgments whatsoever about what I ate. If I stuck to salad and shakes they were fine with it. When I ate close to 1/2 lb of brisket, they didn’t say anything either. They didn’t accuse me of being obsessive or compulsive or annoying when I passed on the wine and cheese at dinner. Nor did they accuse me of wrecking my diet when I had two martinis. In other words, they were great! Thanks guys! They also didn’t razz me about my appearance. They didn’t say that I needed to eat more or that I was too skinny, like they have done in the past. They also didn’t comment if they thought I was looking a little rounder around the edges than I’d been when I’d arrived. They were very accepting. And their acceptance made being there — being with them — being myself — that much easier.

In sum, I had a great time and I know just where I’ll be applying my free round trip ticket from United!

Having a compelling reason

In the last week, a couple of different women (both about half my age) have asked me about losing weight. In each conversation, I told them what I have done and immediately the questions started flying:

But don’t you eat sweets?

What about cookies?

Don’t you ever want to just eat junk food?

Milk? You don’t drink milk? What about yogurt?!

Followed quickly by the protestations:

I could never do that!

First of all, both of these women look great. So I had to ask: Why do you want to lose weight?

The first one mumbled something about her parents coming up for graduation.

The second said that she wanted to look better. When I pushed on her why she wanted to look better, she really struggled to find a compelling reason.

She then said that she had a lot of time in which to exercise, so she thought she should work out more. I told her that if having too much time on her hands was her only reason then maybe she should try reading Anna Karenina or taking up belly dancing.

If you don’t have a compelling reason to lose weight, you won’t. You’ve got to want something bad enough to give up the cookies, the chocolate croissants, the peanut butter, the wine with dinner, the chips straight out of the bag before bed…well, you get the picture.

And if you don’t have a compelling enough reason, maybe you’re fine as you are. Or maybe you will eventually find the reason — either in terms of a failed goal, a bad knee, a weight related health condition, having to buy two seats on an airline, not being able to wear your favorite suit, or any number of other situations. But it can’t be some half baked desire; those never work. And it certainly won’t work if the only reason that you’re doing it is because someone else thinks you should!

Don’t you ever just want a cookie? She asked disbelievingly, glancing over at a display case teeming with chocolate cakes, Napoleons, and cream stuffed horns (ironically we were having this conversation in a bakery). Yes, I do, I answered honestly, but not nearly as bad as I want to be thin.

And why do I want to be thin? Believe me, I have my reasons. And they are, if nothing else, compelling.

Quote for the Day

“Here’s the bottom line: You are either living as a warning or an example….” Loren Slocum, author of Life Tuneups: Your Personal Plan to Find Balance, Discover Your Passion, and Step Into Greatness.

A New Spin on Accountability

I’m not sure how it works, but it might be interesting for those people who need a little bit of incentive, in any area of their life: StickK.

Consignment Shopping

I went to a consignment store today and tried on clothes that I would never have picked out in a traditional department store. There was something easy about picking up something that I figured was too sizes too small for me and slipping it on in a consignment store that I don’t typically find in your name brand chains–The Gap, American Eagle, Talbot’s, etc. However, because this store (located in the middle of a college town) had many of those brands on consignment, it gave me the opportunity to try on things without the experience (real of not) of being gawked at by anorexic teenagers.

Guess what? Gap pants aren’t as intimidating as I thought they were! In fact I bought my first pair. I must admit that they are a tiny bit snug in the hips, but I bought them that way on purpose. AND they were only $12! They are, in effect, a quick and inexpensive way to get leverage on myself. That is, every time I put them on, I’ll remember to pay closer attention to what I put in my mouth. They are also my new markers of success, so I can be less tied to the scale.

As I was striking up a conversation with the owner, she also mentioned that she was taking spring and summer consignments; did I want a consignment agreement? I hesitated and then thought about it. Yes. Yes, I do want a consignment agreement.

Another point of leverage: get rid of the two largest sizes in my closet. This seems like a total win-win. I may make some money. I won’t have any open invitations to gain weight lurking in the dark corners of my closet. And even if they don’t sell, she’ll take them to the same community center that I would have done, saving me not only the trip, but also the hassle.

Anyway you look at it, consignment stores are ideal for people who are changing sizes and also styles. When I go to a more conventional store, I tend to stick with what I know (if I go at all). In consignment stores, there are a plethora of styles from which to chose. There also is a conspicuous absence of fluorescent lights and overly helpful sales people who have only seen cellulite in pictures.

For example, I tried on a Chinese-style orange dress with pink embroidered dragon flies. It was fitted and very sleek. I loved it. I loved the way I looked in it. I would never have tried that dress on anywhere else. (I probably never would have found that dress anywhere else, but that’s not the point!) Although I felt like a queen while wearing it, I left it there. But maybe next time I a see a long fitted dress I won’t automatically scoff, “That would look terrible on me” or, even worse, “That’s just not me.”