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  • My health & fitness goals for 2009

    I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that one of my goals for this year is to lose weight and promised to talk more about it. That time has come.

    But first, let’s review 2008: I didn’t have any concrete weight loss goals, but I did want to make exercise a habit and eat more fruit and vegetables. I did pretty well with the first goal, since at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t exercising at all. And by the end of the year, I was exercising three to four days per week. Plus, I ran a 5K in November for the first time ever. (That was such an awesome feeling of accomplishment!)

    Also, I joined Weight Watchers last summer. I had great success at the beginning, but then hit a major plateau, got discouraged, and went back to my old habits. I’m still down almost 10 pounds from my initial weigh-in, however, so I’d still call that a success.

    And that brings us to 2009. I’m still doing Weight Watchers, and I’m still exercising regularly. Mostly because of Weight Watchers, I do have a firm weight loss goal in mind for the year – I want to lose 15 pounds. After that, I may want to lose another five, but we’ll have to see how I feel 15 pounds from now.

    I also want to run another race – I’m thinking of an 8K, since there’s one in April not too far from home. That’s 4.9 miles, which would be a good distance for me – it’s realistic but difficult enough that I would have to push myself to train for it.

    And perhaps most importantly, I want to develop better eating habits. I realize that this is something I didn’t do when I first started Weight Watchers. I thought I’d changed my habits for good, but it really didn’t take long for me to revert to my old ways. My downfalls have always been portion sizes and sweets. So it’s important to me that this year, I learn to regard sweets as a treat, and learn to be satisfied with less food in general.

    For me, these are all very realistic goals, and if I achieve them all, then I’ll be pretty close to being a poster child for healthy living. My weight will be in a healthy range, I’ll be in good physical condition, and I’ll be eating a nutritious diet. What more could I ask?

    Weight Watchers Week Eleven: I’m going to run a 5K!

    So last week, I mentioned that I was thinking about registering for my very first 5K. Thank you so much if you commented – I really appreciate your encouragement and insight! I discussed the 5K with Marc, and I should have known that he’d be fully supportive and encouraging.

    So I did it! I signed up and now I’m working hard on pushing my body to run faster so that I can complete the race as fast as possible. I’ve found that running intervals really improves my speed, so I plan on running them at least twice a week.

    I don’t expect to win or even to place, and I’m definitely not going to push my body too hard (I have an ugly history of knee problems), but my motivation to complete the race as quickly as possible stems from knowing that Marc will be taking care of the kids by himself while I’m running. In fact, I don’t know what he’s going to do with them during the race, or if they’ll even come with me since the race starts at 8:00 and I presume I’ll have to be there quite a bit earlier to check in. I’d love any suggestions on how to prepare for the race or suggestions for what Marc should expect on race day while I’m unavailable. The web site says there’s an “expo” and there’s also a one-mile family race, so I know it will be a family friendly environment. But I’m wondering if there will be enough to keep two little boys from throwing tantrums out of boredom, or if Marc should just find something else to do that morning, like take them to the aquarium.

    Meanwhile, as to Weight Watchers itself, I’m finding myself thinking less about losing weight and more about developing healthy eating habits that I can maintain for a lifetime. For me, that mainly means learning to control the amount of sweets I eat in a day, and to balance out my eating over the course of a day or two. In other words, if I have a big lunch, it’s perfectly fine to skip dinner or just have a bite or two of something.

    I am feeling less constrained by things I “should” be doing, and feeling okay about doing things my own way. I may not lose weight as quickly as if I followed Weight Watchers’ guidelines to the letter, but I will be able to stick with the program for a lot longer. For example, there are days when I don’t track my points. Not because I intend to eat a lot and don’t want to be accountable, but because I forget or am not near a computer. But instead of feeling that the lack of tracking is a huge failure, I shrug it off and start tracking again the next day. That may not sound like much, but it’s a big step for me πŸ™‚

    Weight Watchers Week Ten: Is there a 5K in my future?

    As I ran on the treadmill last night, I set a goal of being able to run three miles in less than 30 minutes – I can run two and a half in that time, so I know it’s doable. And then I started thinking about running a 5K race, since that’s 3.1 miles. I know I can run three miles, it’s just a question of how long it will take me. There’s a race in November that I could enter . . . so I am thinking about it. (I would prefer December but there doesn’t seem to be a conveniently located race that month.) The thought of registering makes me pretty nervous, though, since I’ve never run a race before. But it would certainly motivate me to work out even more!

    At my meeting this week, one of the women mentioned that she had been motivated to control her eating by an event she went to over the weekend, and her desire to look awesome in a special cocktail dress. She said that after the event was over, she caught herself about to eat something she would never have eaten in the weeks leading up to the event, and was struggling with her motivation.

    With motivation on my mind, I realized as I ran last night that one of the best things about working out hard is that it makes me want to eat better so that my body has a better source of fuel for the work it’s doing. And of course, training for a race would be added motivation in that regard.

    Have you run a road race and if so, what should I be considering in deciding whether to sign up?

    Weight Watchers Week Nine: Learning to live with lifestyle changes

    I haven’t written about the last couple weeks on Weight Watchers because I’ve been in an interesting adjustment period. I worked really hard the first six to seven weeks and lost 12 pounds right off the bat. I just couldn’t keep up that intensity, though, so I haven’t been very dedicated for the last two to three weeks. I haven’t been tracking points, and I haven’t been exercising nearly as much.

    But guess what’s happened? Despite eating my favorite foods, I’ve actually maintained the weight loss within a half pound or so over the course of several weeks. I’m extremely pleased about this, because it’s proof that I’ve made changes that I can live with.

    Obviously, I can maintain my weight at this level, but I’d still like to lose another 15 pounds or so. So I’ve started counting points again.

    On my last Weight Watchers update, I mentioned that I wasn’t eating all of my points, and I got a slew of comments about how important it is to eat all of the points available. I think I needed to read that over and over again, because it seems to be true for me. So a big thank you to everyone who commented on that post!

    The challenge for me now is to learn how to incorporate my favorite foods into a lifelong eating pattern. I’ve already gotten quite good about not over-indulging, but I do still like to eat sweets every day. At Get Fit Slowly, Mac and J.D. are struggling with the same problem. According to Mac, their wives “automatically budget their food intake” and “view sweets and desserts as a reward, not a necessity,” whereas he and J.D. don’t.

    I don’t either. I’ve tried, but I just don’t think I’ll ever be someone who only eats sweets once in a while. So instead of making myself miserable trying to do something that’s virtually impossible, I’m trying to find reasonable compromises that allow me to eat healthfully, reach and maintain a healthy weight, and still enjoy my favorite foods (and I’m talking about the real stuff, not diet cookies and what not). I believe it’s possible, and it’ll just take some time to figure it out. How long? I have no idea, but I hope not too long.

    Check out Kris’s insightful post at Cheap Healthy Good on why she gains and loses weight.

    Weight Watchers Week Six: Some Weight Watchers Tips

    I’m happy to report that Weight Watchers is really working for me, so I thought it would be a good time to share some details on what I’ve been doing. Although I offer these tips in relation to Weight Watchers, the general principles are, of course, applicable to any healthy lifestyle.

    • Earn activity points. If I could share only one tip, it would be to exercise. With Weight Watchers, you earn “activity points,” which means you can eat that much more on the days you exercise. I love it, because on days when I work out long and hard, I can easily earn an extra four to six points, enough for a whole extra meal.
    • Think long term. It’s nice to see that Weight Watchers’ “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” motto is more than just lip service. At my last meeting, one of the women, A., mentioned that she leaves herself about three points for dinner, and ends up having tomato sauce with shirataki noodles.* Our leader, W., asked if A. could keep that up in the long run, to which A. replied that she figured it would be different once she was in maintenance. W. was obviously perturbed, and emphasized that the maintenance phase isn’t that different from the losing phase. She impressed upon us that now is the time to cultivate a lifestyle that we can live with forever. It made a lot of sense to me, since I am in this for the long haul – this will be the last “diet” I’m ever on. I have no intention of gaining any of the weight back and every intention of keeping it off forever. I have visions of taking “active” vacations when the boys are old enough, and watching the men’s marathon at the Olympics has even got me thinking, “I think I can do that!” (Although it would take me a heck of a lot longer than two hours to run 26.2 miles.)
    • Allow for “failure.” Weight Watchers’ Flex Plan comes with a daily points allowance and a weekly points allowance. I always eat all of my daily points, because I don’t want to send my body into starvation mode, and in fact, I usually eat more than that, since I almost always earn at least some activity points. But I save my weekly points for those “moments of weakness” – like when the kids are throwing extra-vigorous tantrums, my blood pressure is soaring, and those cookies on the counter look particularly tempting. Or when I have a PMS-induced craving for chocolate cake. I know these moments are going to happen each week, and by saving my weekly points for them, I can indulge without any guilt.
    • Prepare for the unexpected. This goes along with the previous tip and saving weekly points. There have been a couple of times when I didn’t really have an ideal low-point option, and had to settle for a food that contained more points than I had planned for. But again, I didn’t stress about it too much because I knew I had room in my “points budget” because I hadn’t eaten my weekly points yet.
    • Don’t eat all of your weekly points. Even though I save my weekly points for unexpected temptations, I have never eaten all of them. Not only will I lose weight faster because I’m taking in fewer calories, it also helps make up for any underestimating I may have done with my tracking during the week. Maybe there was a day when I actually ate 26 points but only tracked 24 because I underestimated a portion or forgot about the bite I took off of one of the kids’ plates.
    • Have a contingency plan. I keep a few favorite low-point foods around for unplanned moments. For instance, on Saturday, Alex wanted hot dogs. I’m not crazy about hot dogs, though, and I didn’t want to waste points on them. So I made hot dogs for the rest of the family and pulled a four-point frozen Smart Ones dinner out of the freezer for myself. I like to keep a few of these on hand at all times just for such occasions, and I’ve found that my meeting leader has booklets containing coupons for Weight Watchers products so I can easily combine sales and coupons. Other foods I like to keep on hand are Special K cereal, rice cakes, and Laughing Cow Light cheese.

    So those are my tips for succeeding on Weight Watchers. I’d love it if you’d share yours in the comments!

    *I just have to mention how that grosses me out. I love shirataki, but can’t imagine eating them with a bolognese.

    Weight Watchers Week Five: For me, it’s about personal integrity

    Back when I was in high school and college, I loved self-help books. They helped me figure out who I wanted to be, where I was going to go, and how I wanted to get there. One of the books I read was a book that was hugely popular at the time, Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

    The aspect of the book that made the biggest impression on me was the discussion about personal integrity. Maybe it was because my dad often talked about the importance of integrity and pointed out ways that people disregarded it. Whatever the reason, everything Covey said about it made a lot of sense to me, and I really internalized the notion that integrity is key to successful relationships – not just with others, but with ourselves.

    I’ve been overweight since I was about eight years old, when we moved in with my grandmother for a year to an area where I didn’t have any friends and got quite lonely. I learned to quash my feelings by eating, and that tendency got worse over the years. About ten years ago, I realized the connection between my emotions and food and since then, I’ve worked hard to break it.

    In the last 25 years, I’ve been on dozens of diets and tried to lose weight countless times. Sometimes I succeeded, but it was always temporary, because my emotions would get the better of me and I’d start eating again. But now, I’m finally at a place where that doesn’t (usually) happen.

    And this is where my personal integrity kicks in. During my teens and twenties, I hated myself for not being able to lose weight. I thought it made me a bad person. When I finally understood the connection between my emotions and food, I was able to be kinder to myself but I still felt out of control. But now that I am no longer hostage to my emotions (or to food), I know that failing at Weight Watchers would be a devastating blow to my personal integrity.

    It’s not so much about the numbers on the scale as it is about the effort I give it. If I try my absolute best to lose weight and it doesn’t happen, I have nothing to feel bad about. (I will, however, head straight for my doctor for some tests.) On the other hand, if I slack off simply because I lack commitment, then I’ll feel terrible about breaking a promise I’ve made to myself.

    I’ve been on Weight Watchers for four weeks now and I’m determined to succeed. The number on the scale is heading in the right direction, which is definitely rewarding. But the boost in self-confidence and self-worth that I get from keeping my promise to myself is even more rewarding than that.