Mental reset

My usual exercise routine on Sundays is to walk outside, I live near several lakes with trails and I enjoy being out there. I wasn’t able to get out last weekend due to the snowstorm and I missed it. Being that NC gets all four seasons in a week, today was 60 degrees and sunny. I made sure to make time to get out there.

I’ve been walking these trails for the past six years on a regular basis. It was my main form of exercise when I started this health journey and still an important part of my routine. With a new job and working M-F, it’s been reduced to weekends. When I walk on Sundays, I think about what’s coming up this week, work demands, appointments, obstacles I need to face, etc. Today there were several trees downed from the snow, blocking the path and I thought about how these were also obstacles in my way, but I was able to go around them – and in one case, through one by going under it. I’ve worked out a lot of solutions to issues on these walks. To me it’s a symbolic way to kick off the upcoming week and get ready to face it head on. Today really reinforced that.

Last week kicked my butt a bit, mostly work related. I think not being able to walk last weekend hurt my mindset. The snowstorm and the change in schedules didn’t help, most of that due to the gym (my happy place) being closed or opening later on in the day all the way through Tuesday. I missed Boot Camp and my personal training, I missed seeing my friends and the fun we have. It’s always a joy to me, even when I have to do burpees. I did a Dexa scan last weekend before the snow, I do them every four months and this one showed a muscle loss I’m not happy with. My attempts to hit my goal weight and build muscle took a hit, and so did my brain. It doesn’t take much when you’re on this journey.

I saw my dietitian yesterday to go over those numbers and see how to fix things. She’s part therapist and looking at the numbers and talking about recent increases in work stress made us see that my difficulties are most likely related to increases in my cortisol levels, which doesn’t help my PCOS. I’ve had some shifts where it’s been all stress and noticeable in feeling like my heart is racing and I’m trying to stay afloat. This was similar to the feelings I often had in my last job. We came up with a game plan on how to manage my food on those days where stress is going to be high and I’m burning too many calories. We also, with the help of my trainer (who generously fit me in on a different day), came up with a clearer plan on exercise days and types and more importantly, rest days.

I’m excited by the new ideas and as always, grateful for the support I get. I need to change a few other things as well and that walk today gave me a clearer head.

Bring on Monday!

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Low-cal Thanksgiving? Why?

My dietitian, Britt, sent me an email a few days ago asking the following:

“random questions; whats the obsession with low calorie thanksgiving.. its mostly turkey?? Why are people scared? Its one day. You cant undo your whole life in one day??? “

(As I was replying, I thought it might be a good post for the blog. And when she answered me, she said it needs to be a post for the blog, so here it is. )

My unedited answer:

“Because Thanksgiving is the biggest pig out of the year and people know it. Because you’re with people and expected to eat and eat. I get it, it still scares me. Not as much maybe, but still enough to mess with my mind. And while I know one day won’t undo my 107ish pounds, Fat Karen, who’s still in there, still believes it will.

And it’s the first of a lot of parties with Christmas not too far behind. It’s a lot of time outside of the normal routine of good food choices, logging and exercising. It’s a mind game of believing that one bad day will be enough to make you go back to the way you used to eat, that once you start eating all the foods, you won’t be able to stay in control. Or worse, that you won’t want to stay in control. I get a little scared every day that I won’t want to keep doing what I’m doing, that I’ll stop caring and Fat Karen will re-emerge.”

That was a little hard to write down, even when it was just going to Britt. That fear is there every day, but I don’t always think about it. I do care about this journey, the weight I’ve lost and how much better my body and mind are, but get scared that it won’t take much for me to slide all the way back to square one – that there might be one incident, idea, or food out there that will trip me up.

As for the holidays, I will enjoy myself with my family. I don’t think it’s an excuse to eat to the point of being bloated and sick like so many people do, but will have the foods I don’t eat every day and just quick add a million calories to my food log, and be done with it. Oh yeah, and drink lots and lots of water.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Navigating the Holidays in the Workplace

When you’re on a weight loss journey, one of the biggest obstacles you can encounter is food in the workplace, especially this time of year, around the holidays. The holidays can be stressful by themselves, but since a huge part of celebrating has to do with food, this can place even more stress on those of us who are trying to make healthy food choices and not get derailed. I’ve been on this journey for several years, so I’ve survived a few.

First, realize the holidays are for celebrating and for family time. It’s not about logging food and watching other people eat what you don’t think you can have. That being said, I don’t think it’s a free pass to be a glutton, either. I read somewhere that the average American eats 4000 calories at Thanksgiving, which is nuts. For family time, I don’t log (my own dietitian says not to), I enjoy my food and more importantly, the company and I try to drink a LOT of water.

Work, for me is a different story. I worked in a hospital for years, hospital settings are notorious for spur of the moment potlucks. We’d celebrate anything and everything. I’m currently in a doctor’s office, where there are also a lot of celebrations – there was enough sugar at Halloween to feed a couple of classrooms at the  local grade school. I managed not to eat any candy, although I really wanted a roll of Smarties, they were a childhood favorite.

During these past few years of trying to make better food choices and being faced with the challenges of work parties/potlucks/holidays, I’ve made some rules for myself. I participate in the big holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, but not in the smaller ones, the Taco Tuesdays, the “everyone bring in food for no reason” ones, and any others that pop up. My first priority is to myself and my health.  This isn’t family time, this is a lunch break in a not so comfortable setting and it’s usually a grab your food and eat whenever event. Eating under these circumstances is just not worth it to me. I usually get some flak from coworkers, but I’m not about to eat food I wouldn’t eat on my own time. Sorry, not sorry.

For the times I do partake, I try to bring something I like, so I know there’s something there for me, if the other choices are less than optimal. Before I eat, I remind myself that I don’t need to eat everything just because it’s there in front of me and free. I step back and look at everything that’s offered, before adding it to my plate. You can’t go wrong with vegetables/salads, just watch the amount of dips/dressings. I try to get a protein in there and skip the rolls/bread (PCOS means I watch the amount of carbs I eat). A small scoop is smart, you can always go back for more. If you load up a lot on your plate, you’re more likely to eat it because it’s there in front of you. I skip the never ending supply of soda and juices and stick with water. I don’t like to drink my calories and I’ve been soda-free for five years now. When it’s time for dessert, the smaller the better. I remind myself of what I’m trying to accomplish and that a work party/lunch doesn’t have to derail me, even for one meal.

It can be easy to get caught up in the festivities and go overboard, but it should be a conscious decision to do so and it should be enjoyed. Work settings don’t do that for me so I simply don’t. The comments and disapproving looks are trivial, the bigger picture is to do what makes me happy and what is good for me.


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I was out walking earlier and thinking of what to write for this post. It was just last Sunday when I did my Bull City Five Mile race.   My goal in that was to run the whole course as the previous time I tried it, I wasn’t able to do so.  I was thinking about how that had been something I really wanted to do for the past two years (only did the mile course last year due to a plantar’s fasciitis). It was a great feeling. Still is.

It’s good to have goals in all areas of your life. Definitely in this weight loss/health journey thing. I’d have never made it this far without them, or if my only one was to lose the 100+  lbs. That was a big goal at the time, and it was overwhelming. It had to be broken down into smaller ones, as far as the numbers went, or I’d have failed miserably. For me, starting at 248 lbs., getting to Onederland was an important one. I still have the picture of the scale saying “199” taped over my computer.

But it’s not all about the number on the scale. (Yes Britt, I do listen). As I learned more along the way, the more important numbers became more about reaching milestones in body fat percent, moving out of being obese, increasing my lean muscle mass number and more.

It’s also about reaching physical goals. I ran five freakin’ miles last week. Nowhere in the past would I, or could I, have done that. I run. And not because someone is chasing me, just because I can. My first goal with running was just to finish the Couch to 5K program, especially the dreaded Week Five, Day Three where you don’t do intervals and run 20 minutes straight. I did it and even had enough energy when the timer went off to do one of those football touchdown dances!

Another goal was to go to early morning classes at the gym. The first year I made that one, I just had to go to one and it took me till October to actually do it. Then my goal was to do Boot Camp, be able to do whatever was on the schedule and not be the slowest person in the class. I checked that off the list and it’s now my favorite class.

I’ve reached goals I’ve set in lifting weights with bench pressing and deadlifting. One of my current ones related to physical activity is to do a pull up or chin up. That’s going to take some time and that’s okay. I joke around and say just one before I die. In the meantime, I’m working towards that by continuing to lift weights, to increase the amount of lean muscle mass in my body, especially my arms, shoulders and back.

I also thought about ones I’d like to accomplish.

Related to the physical part of my health journey:

  • do the pull up
  • end up with 20% body fat
  • do more strength training
  • run next year’s Bull City 5 miles in 49:59 or less
  • walk outside more

Related to the mental part of my health journey

  • handle stress better
  • more confidence
  • care less about certain things/people
  • go back to meditation

Other goals (just a few)

  • finish up studying and pass the Health Coach certification test
  • become a Health Coach
  • get up the nerve to use the Group Fitness Instructor certification
  • work on this blog more
  • be happy


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Taking the Bull by the Horns

The Bull City Race Fest that is.

It’s a yearly race held in Durham, NC each October, with a half-marathon, a five-miler and a one-miler. I’m referring to the five-miler.  I call myself a casual runner. I  do a few 5Ks a year, and one 4 mile race. So this is my longest. This was my third time going. Last year I had an annoying Plantar’s Fasciitis and while I should have skipped it, I liked the color of the race shirt they were giving out and signed up for the one mile. The year before that, I did the five-miler. I started out with the people I went with, but I couldn’t keep up with them. Seeing them pull ahead of me and starting out too fast, made me have to slow up and walk. And once I did that, I’d run a short distance, and then listen to the voice telling me to walk again. I did that several times. So, that’s been a thorn in my side (may as well keep with the bull theme) for the past two years.

My goal was to run the whole thing with a secondary goal being under an hour. For the past few months I’ve been running outside in the morning and keeping it at an 11 min/mile pace. It’s sustainable for me. I can go faster for shorter distances. I finally did five miles on the treadmill last weekend at 5.5 miles/hour and it felt good. It’s more about the mind games for me, about having a plan on how to combat the insecurity and doubts. I worked on that while I did those morning runs.

My Achilles tendon was acting up this past week, so I wasn’t sure I was going to run, let alone run it all. I threw the hour time limit out the window – kind of – and just tried to tell myself to run slow and keep going. Limited sleep (adopted a new kitten two days ago, who’s apparently a night owl) and the balmy 45 degree weather with some wind gusts, added to the challenge. But it was paid for, I picked up the shirt and bib and they do have medical attention nearby, so I went. I went with my trainer, we also met someone else who works at the gym. My plan was to start behind them, since I knew I couldn’t keep up and watching people pass me messes with my mind.

I did it.

I ran the whole thing, came in at a respectable 52:29,  a 10:29 min pace, faster than the 11 mins I was aiming for. Also 26/74 for females 50-54. I’m very happy with it and that my Achilles held out. More importantly was the voice in my head that says “walk” didn’t say a word. There were no negative thoughts, other than being annoyed at the wind that would pop up, no thoughts of walking or that I couldn’t do it. To hit a physical goal is one thing, to beat back the negativity and self-doubt two years in the making is so much more. 

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