Baby Steps Enumerated

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Here we are, a couple of weeks after I started actively working on Changing Things.

So far, so good.

I mentioned signing up for NaNoWriMo, and as of today, I have 31 chapters outlined, as well as major characters and settings defined in this really nice, lightweight (free) tool – LitLift. It feels pretty good. I never tried outlining before, and wow – I am completely converted. Previously, I thought writing had to, y’know, flow, naturally and unhindered, from this sort of create fount inside. The story would organically take shape with little effort.

Well, HA.

As I have discovered, time and again, that’s just a fantastic way to write myself into a corner and get frustrated when I can’t find my way out.

So now, I have my outline. It’s not set in stone, but it’s there if I need it. I did my very best to only outline, and not write. That part was hard, but I maintained my objective.

Then, we have The Exercising. The rules here are pretty loose, because I know if they’re rigid, and I screw it up, I’ll fall off the wagon and won’t get back on. The rules are:

  • A minimum of 15 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, OR
  • Intense cardio until I can’t do it anymore (for example, marching up and down the stairs until I feel like I’m going to fall down may not take the whole 15 minutes, but gets the job done.)
  • I can skip one day per calendar week
  • I don’t get to bank up skipped days – if I don’t use it, I lose it
  • Eat sensibly – watch portion size, be mindful of when my stomach feels like I’ve had enough. Eat more plants and fewer carbs. Sweet treats are allowed in small portions – a snack-size Hershey bar takes care of intense chocolate cravings.

Those are guidelines I can live with. Fifteen minutes is barely any time at all – a bike ride around the block, a walk at lunch, or the dreaded Stairs. Usually, I do more than 15 minutes, and can feel good about having exceeded my goal. On the days when I feel it’s hard to get going, I know it’s going to be a brief period of unpleasantness.

“Moderate physical activity” could mean anything from spending an hour hauling crap out of the garden to the compost pile, to playing on the Wii Fit, to anything else that gets my heart rate up and muscles moving around.

The main obstacle I’m running into is my schedule and the daylight hours growing shorter. I can’t ride the bike after work most days, so I have to ride before. Sometimes I’ll plan to go for a walk at lunch, but find it’s raining and crappy outside by the time lunch rolls around. Those are the days when I hit the stairs (today will be one of those days, sadly.) Getting up earlier to ride is hard for me to do currently, especially since the mornings are rather chilly now. Soon, I’ll have to abandon the bike entirely and find something else to do. I’m looking into yoga classes, but with my schedule and finances, that’s probably not a viable option. There’s a nice studio down the road, though.

I really love the bike, but my ischial tuberosities do not. I’m trying a few saddle adjustments to see if it makes a difference.

The last time I got myself into shape, I dropped 50 pounds through running a few miles every other day, and via Weight Watchers. It worked, but wasn’t sustainable. The weight slowly crept back on, and was always something I planned to “nip in the bud…. later.” Of course, “later” ended up being 70 pounds and five years later. Le sigh. Here’s a photo of me soon after losing all that weigh:

And here I was, letting it creep back on a year later:

Finally, here’s me now:

Pretty appalling, isn’t it? I know.

But here I am.

I’m not weighing myself or measuring anything, because I don’t want to deal with The Tyranny of the Scale, but I can already feel changes in my body, and I approve. One of my pairs of jeans even fits looser now, so something’s definitely happening.

The main thing is, I’m making some changes, and I feel better about how it’s going. Yes, I am still trapped in a completely unrewarding career for now, but that may change in awhile. I’ll do what I can in the other areas of my life.

I’m reading for hours a day, instead of playing EVE for hours, another item making me feel more fulfilled.

There’s still not much energy for housecleaning or everyday chores, but I hope my energy will pick up the better I eat and the more I exercise.

And on that note, it is time to head my chubby self on home. To the stairs. >.<

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15 responses to Baby Steps Enumerated


  1. Judith

    See? Sounding happier already. And my trainer says don’t let the scales rule, like you’re already seeing, your clothes will tell you when you’re making progress.

  2. Erin D.

    Hi Judith – Agreed! I get obsessive with the scale, so I’m leaving it alone for now. I know my weight will fluctuate with muscle gain/fat loss, how much water I’m holding onto, that sort of thing, but despite knowing those things, it still bugs me when I don’t lose, or worse, gain a little. So, no scales!

  3. Mel

    I do the scales, but I don’t live and die by them. With a background in epidemiology and stats, I’m all about repeated measures. Since January, I’ve also been recording everything I eat and most of my exercise on fitday.com. I got the paid version, which is inexpensive, just to have access to more of the tracking tools and to ditch the ads, but they’ve got a free version, too. Recording everything, I find, is the only reliable way for me to keep myself on track.

    Still undecided about NaNoWriMo this year. Between work and class, I end up without much time to devote to purely creative pursuits, so last year I didn’t write a word. Still have that idea bouncing around the back of my head, though, so…maybe?

  4. Like Mel, I use fitday.com. I just use the free one for food tracking… I love the macro breakdowns on carb, protein and fat because that’s exactly what I measure my daily numbers and success by.

    I admire people who can “do what they can, when they can” because my brain is a balls to the wall kind of brain. So I feel like if I can’t do the hour in the gym and eat perfectly 29 days a month then just forget it! I hate that.

    When I was doing those competition things in Hawaii I recorded every item I ate on fitday.com and let the site tell me all my statistics. I wrote down every workout routine in and out of the gym in a hardbound journal because I could take it in with me and write down every weight amount lifted and how many reps of each.

    I also took photos every week; front, side and back view. I also took pics anytime I felt like there was something good to take one of. LOL I’d get my bodyfat percent tested officially at a fitness center and when it was particularly low, I’d run home and take a picture. That sort of thing. I found photos the most motivational thing for me. I had a few printouts of a couple of women whom I aspired to look like and I looked at those a LOT. I did a lot of coveting. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

    In the beginning, before I knew anything, I thought that if I worked hard enough that I could make my body look like anyone in the fitness mags. PFFFT! Turns out THAT wasn’t true.

    Anyway! I’m glad you’re seeing results already…. that’s a huge motivator too! When doing a little makes positive changes, it’s easier to make bigger changes and keep going!

    <3
    Lisa

  5. Erin D.

    Mel & Lisa – Thanks for the pointer to that site. I played with it a little just now, but quickly stopped.

    My primary problem with those types of sites is, when I type in “macaroni,” I am presented with 4 pages of things from which to choose, and the one I want isn’t there. I’d imagine they have some mechanism to add foods and their nutritional values from the label, but I just don’t have that kind of time or motivation – energy better spent elsewhere for me.

    I’d say about 80% of what I eat is homemade, so I would have to go through, find each ingredient, weigh or measure it out, etc etc etc. It stresses me out and frustrates me immensely.

    Still, I can completely understand why you guys enjoy it, though, if you’re stats-oriented! My poor little brain just doesn’t work that way for the most part. My proof will just be in the pudding. 🙂

    Thanks again!

  6. Erin D.

    Mel – I really understand about not necessarily having the time/energy/motivation to do NaNo; I’m not sure I do, either – but I’m really excited about it this year. 🙂 If you find the creative energy, yay! If not, then that’s ok – there will be other years, and of course, the traditional non-insane methods of writing. 😉

  7. Erin D.

    Lis – I remember a few of those photos of you back then, and you looked absolutely *amazing*! Not something I would ever have the discipline to do (and heck, my body probably wouldn’t be able to do it anyhow,) but I admire your ability and determination!

  8. Thanks! It was extraordinarily time consuming. I didn’t work those 3 years in Hawaii AND Chris was deployed for half the time AND the kids were in school all day. What the hell else was I gonna do?

    And yes. I was insane. I bought the perfect foods and entered each individual one in fitday so I had the EXACT macros. I had/have food scales so I knew EXACTLY how much I was using. It does sounds nuts, but it’s really only time consuming the FIRST time you enter the foods on the site.

    My grocery store has ONE good bread that I can eat, so it’s not like I’m entering 7 breads, you know? So I took the time to enter it all once, and from then on, just put the number of whatever and let it figure away.

    I’m not doing it now, tho. I was sort of half-assing it last year but then I got sick in January and I’m even just now beginning to feel better, more like normal, and it’s 10 months later. =o( I probably will never get back to it full force, but I do think about it sometimes. I look at those pics and COVET!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. George

    The winter is a tough time, with the weather and diminishing daylight. You may want to consider a gym membership, where you can add some lean muscle mass as well as do some cardio. I personally don’t recommend spinning for a whole bunch of reasons, but that’s me.

    As for food, reducing portion size is the easiest thing to do, rather than cutting out entire groups. While I generally don’t count calories, it is useful to be cognizant of the calorie density of what you’re eating. Not snacking helps enormously. Rice can be quite filling while relatively low in calories. I don’t go for the anti-carb dogma. As you lose weight and ramp up your exercise, you’re going to need those carbs.

    And as for exercise, 15 minutes is a start but its far from adequate. They say 30 minutes is a baseline. My personal take on it is more in line with an average of an hour, although that is more in-season rather than now. That does mean you can bank it, which is to say that 5 hours on the bike spread over two days in one week works quite fine, especially when you spend 2-3 days in the gym the rest of the week. Remember, its about the math – so 5 hours of moderate to intense riding still burns the calories you need to move you forward. In fact, its probably actually favorable to do it that way because you give your heart time to warm up properly, as well as testing your ability to maintain high HR (and therefore energy burn) rates over extended periods of time. You also tend to feel a lot better doing it after your heart has been warmed up. I know I often don’t feel right for the first 30 minutes of a ride.

    Remember the 3-legged stool:

    Time x intensity = results
    Lean muscle mass burns calories
    Fewer calories in

    Give that a month and I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how effective it can be.

  10. Erin D.

    Hi George –

    I completely agree with most of what you say here. I’m just starting out, though, and I need to keep my goals realistic. If I say, “I have to do an hour a day, starting now,” I’m not going to do it, I’ll feel bad for not doing it, and I’ll quit. I know me.

    If I set a very low goal, I will feel good exceeding it and be much more likely to keep it up.

    A gym membership is pretty much out of the question at this point in time.

    Also, my goal isn’t to become holy-shit-ripped, or even “extremely fit;” I just want to be healthier on the whole, and I need to be realistic about my expectations for myself.

    Thanks, as always, and I’m making a note of everything here. 🙂

  11. Michigan Heather

    I’m a real baby-stepper when it comes to weight loss, so I get what you’re saying!

    WTG!!

    BTW, I applied for a job in Maine!

  12. George

    Fair enough. It may be easier to schedule a block of time on a weekend and smaller blocks during the week to get to the same goal.

    As for ambition, the risk here is that you don’t move the needle soon enough (although that’s a low risk – plateauing is a bigger risk) and you lose interest. In my experience, especially seeing others, most people tend not to do enough to move the needle, either because of time constraints, because they fundamentally don’t enjoy it all, or because they arbitrarily set a limit based on what they’re willing to tolerate before they simply give in to what they think is inevitable. At the gym, I often see guys, and this is a male thing, lifting weights for whom muscle mass and size should not be their biggest priorities; i.e., middle-aged or even young guys who are 50+ lbs overweight but can’t make themselves do what they must know to be the right thing to do, rather than what they can tolerate or what appeals to their vanity.

    It’s not easy. But it gets easier, especially when you find yourself in the virtuous feedback loop. Even the food thing gets easier as you get accustomed to less. In fact, after a certain point, and you should look forward to this, your biggest problem will hopefully be not losing weight, but getting enough nutrition to keep up the energy to do what you enjoy doing.

    I’m going to try and get 50 miles in tomorrow if I can fix some nagging problems with the bike. Then I plan to get a serious double cheeseburger and maybe a shake.

  13. Erin D.

    Heather, holy crap!!! Congratulations on taking that step!!! What kind of job was it? Ok, maybe you should email me, rather than explain it all here. 😀

    George – Definitely the case with time management (larger blocks on weekends, smaller during the week.) On my days off, I go for rides that are a few hours long, or for longer walks. As I was getting a hurried 20 minutes in last night, I was thinking about what you wrote yesterday, regarding “banking” the extra time. It’s tempting to do that, but I think then I’d just end up doing two days of longer stuff and then vegging out the rest of the week… and that just doesn’t sound as good to me.

    For now, I think I’m going to stick to what I’ve got, because I’m able to keep up with it. If I try to make a huge leap into longer time periods, I’ll get frustrated due to lack of time and motivation. My misery with my job is sucking most of the energy from my life, so I have to be fairly conservative if I want to do this.

    Also, I have been sedentary to a ridiculous degree for years now – I am grossly out of shape, not just weight-wise, but activity-level-wise. I’ve been a lump at a desk for far too long – you wouldn’t even recognize me now, I’d imagine. So, I’ll get myself a little “warmed up” this way.

    I am indeed concerned about winter and what I’ll do for activity then – I have a Wii Fit, but haven’t used it much at all since we moved into this house in July of 2009. I could yard that out, but I’m not certain how much good it’ll do me. There are training … stands?… for the bike, so I’d be able to stash it in the basement or something and keep riding, but I’m not sure about spending ~$200 on that sort of thing.

    From past experience, I know I will not maintain regular gym attendance if it is not on my way to or from work, or very close to my house. Plus, I just don’t have the money to do it. I may try taking up yoga classes, if I can find one that regularly fits into my weird-assed schedule.

    I’m sure you’re right about getting used to eating less – I’m such an emotional eater, it’s hard not to snack when I’m bored or down or whatever. Not having anything awful around seems to be the key. If the ice cream is there, I will eat it.

    Good luck on the 50 miles! Hope the weather cooperates and that you enjoy your reward afterwards. 🙂

  14. Mel

    Erin: We’re really in the same boat on the homemade meals, plus most sites are oriented toward the meat-and-potatoes crowd (Vegetable curry? What’s that?). Still, food diaries have been shown to be more effective at helping people with weight loss, and it’s easier for me to find a close-ish approximation (masoor daal + seitan curry = chili con carne) and know that I’ve got some sort of accounting than to fret over every ingredient and break it down accordingly. And like George & Lisa say, ultimately it comes down to making your body feel better, rather than trying to look a model whose full-time job is to make their body look a certain way.

    Um, and now it’s time for me to go out in the cold and get in some exercise in the garden. Brrr.

  15. Betty

    Clarice is the greatest 😛

    Homemade Soap

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