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Last night, my friends and I happened across something wonderful and magical — a late-night, weekend-only pop-up taco stand! We’d heard rumors about it from one of the guys in the group, and in honor of his birthday, we made a midnight trip to partake in its delights.
Magical doesn’t describe how I felt, and while I didn’t order any of my own (due to my challenge related goals), my husband was kind enough to let me taste each of his. Social situations are still a challenge for me and my fitness goals.
Tonight, we’re having a semi-formal, home-cooked dinner with friends as a present for this friend’s birthday. While I never found vegetarianism to be super limiting on food choices in social settings, paleo is significantly easier. (Oh, you want meat only no grains? That’s cool.)
I took my Staturday measurements this morning and this is how I compare to my Week 1 stats:
|Stat||Week 1||Week 3|
|Weight||108.2 lbs||108.0 lbs|
|Arm||11 in||11 in|
|Waist||27.25 in||26.25 in|
|Hips||34.5 in||34.25 in|
|Thigh||20.75 in||20 in|
I was surprised to see any change at all, since I can’t recognize any improvement in the mirror yet, but maybe it’s happening? My scale will frequently toggle back and forth by 0.2 lbs so this change doesn’t mean very much to me, but it’s nice to see that other measurements are creeping down, too, which is giving me confidence that I’m on the right track.
With this challenge and any other one that I’ve ever attempted in my life, I know what my goals are but I struggle to get systems in place that will help me achieve them. I tried to outline my plan in week one but I haven’t actually stayed accountable to it. If you change very little about what you’re doing, how can you expect a different result from what you’re currently getting?
I was flipping through the pages of Shape magazine last night and one of the tips I found was that people tend to stick to a fitness program longer if the motivation is external versus only internal. Example: Give a trusted friend $100, and every time you do a workout that makes you sweat (or whatever your goal is) then they pay you a portion of that money until you’ve earned it all back. I’ve also heard of websites where you promise some of your money to a cause you dislike, and if you meet your goal you get all your money back. If you don’t meet your goal, then your money goes to the cause you don’t support. I think systems like this work on the honor system…
Anyway, I’ve been trying to brainstorm better systems for me to find the fitness goals I’m targeting. Until then, I’ll just keep on keeping on.
I’ve been doing the Focus T25 program (by Shaun T) for nearly three weeks now, which almost puts me at the end of the two stages I planned to complete as part of this challenge. That being the case, I thought I would write a little preview of how I feel about the program so far.
FOCUS T25 – Alpha Phase Highlights
- 5 workouts + 1 stretching video
- No equipment required
- 25 minutes of workout plus 3 minutes of cool down stretching
- 5 days a week commitment + 1 day for rest + 1 day for stretching
(but can you really count those?)
- A low-impact “modifier” option for every exercise
I’ll start by saying that I’ve never done a BeachBody brand workout before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I know several people who have done P90X and Insanity and one of the major gripes about these programs were that they were too long, but Focus T-25 seeks to cut that by limiting the total workout to under 30 minutes. For me, it makes it SO easy to fit in at home before I get ready for work in the morning. (Definitely a mark in the “Pro” column because not having enough time for a workout is a common excuse for many.)
I also have to credit Shaun T as an exceptional instructor… throughout all five video sessions, he does an excellent job of demonstrating the technique, counting out the reps or time until the next move, and offering general encouragement in a way that is neither condescending or assuming… very cool bro. And before I forget, there is a handy countdown timer in the left corner of every video so you know how long you’ve been working out, what move you’re currently doing, and it will start flashing red about 10 seconds before switching to the next move. I LOVE THIS! To me, it can be annoying sometimes not knowing what the next move is going to be, especially if the pace of the video is going a mile a minute.
… and speaking of pace, the workout transitions are understandably quick but well-timed. The “Cardio” session progresses steadily from move to move without too much of a break, but the “Speed” session seems to be more of a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout which lets you catch a breath with stretching between each move.
Overall, the workout so far has a lot of Pros, all of which were things I was looking for in a structured workout that I could easily slide into my busy lifestyle. However, my verdict is still out…
What I first noticed in Week 1 was how painfully overworked my leg muscles felt. There are A LOT of squats in T-25, and I’m sure the work only increases when you move on to the Beta phase. It could also be that since there is a lot of jumping involved, your muscles and core have to work harder to stabilize your body so what I’m probably feeling some of that work, too. My favorite phrase from the video is “Don’t run from the work, FEEL the work” but so far, I haven’t gone through a video without giving myself a mini-break or doing a modifier exercise. (Sorry, Shaun, I’m trying!)
Another con I’m working through is the amount of warm-up exercises for each video. I think the warm up is supposed to be incorporated… you do a lot of the moves initially at a slow, controlled pace, then you speed it up or kick it up a notch a little later. At the end of Week 2, I could really feel the stress in my ankles from all the jumping, and I’d describe myself as a moderately active exerciser even before starting the program. I would highly recommend doing a couple minutes of ankle rolls and warmup squats or plies to anyone trying it out.
Level of intensity… I have split feelings on this category. Every workout was difficult in Week 1, but now I’m nailing the Speed and Cardio sessions every single time (with minor modifications on certain high impact moves). The other three videos are all body-weight based and these are kicking my butt. Not just that, I’m literally unable to do some of these since I suffer from back pain regularly. I’ve skipped a few of these sessions this week, in place of a kickboxing class at my gym (fair trade?) but will try my best to squeeze in some extra training this weekend since these are the foundation exercises for the next program phase. When I’m sitting out or taking it easy for part of the session, it ends with me not feeling like I got any workout in.
One final thought on length… 25 minutes feels too short! I know, I know, I was listing this as a Pro, but I’m not convinced yet that 25 minutes is enough to change my body that dramatically. But I did mention that I’ve been modifying the exercises due to my back, and T25 Alpha is also just the “foundation” phase so I’ll give it more time.
Overall, this program is giving me exactly the structure I wanted in the amount of time I wanted, so I feel pretty content. Plus, jumping around for only a few minutes every morning has given me a lot of free time to do other things. I mean, I almost spend more time than that hitting the snooze button every day! I’d love to hear from anyone else that is already doing or has done the Focus T25 program to see if you agree with me. 🙂
How are your workout programs going? Have you seen any progress yet in 2014?
What I love most about eating healthier is experimenting with all sorts of new recipes. I’m constantly browsing blogs and Pinterest for inspiration, and the internet doesn’t disappoint! I especially love when I can find a dish suitable or adaptable to all sorts of diets such as something gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, vegan, paleo, etc.
Last week, I did learn that you can overdo it with nuts and nut desserts when I began experiencing a lot of bloating.
If you follow my Instagram, you’ve probably seen a number of these already, but here are a few snapshots of what I’ve made recently:
Lunch prep… all stocked up for the week!
What have your favorite recipes been lately? Anything I should know about?
We borrowed the bride- and groom-to-be’s car tonight to pick up a new kitchen table from Costco. As it would turn out, we also obliterated their back windshield trying to get box #1 of 5 into the car. We’re fortunate to have such understanding friends that laugh it off and tell us not to feel bad, but I swear this isn’t the type of people we are!
At least it was a good day food and exercise wise…
WEEK 3, Day 3:
Intake: GT’s kombucha, two salads, oven baked chicken and roasted veggies, small/tall latte, handful of cashews
Macronutrient totals: Protein (117g), Carbs (70g), Fat (54g)
Output: 45 minutes kickboxing
I decided to take the next few posts to play around with how I report out my exercise. I had a grand plan of how to do it when I first started this blog, but it didn’t work out the way I hoped. If you see me changing things up, then that’s just me trying to figure out how to stay accountable!
I don’t have a Staturday post for this week. On Friday afternoon, I was racing to pack and leave for a weekend getaway to Paso Robles for a friend’s birthday. Paso Robles — for anyone that doesn’t know — is pretty much the next Napa. It’s just a few hours north of L.A. and still sleepy town wine country. Awesome! As part of packing, I was trying to figure out how to take stats measurements on the road, and since I don’t have a seamstress’s tape measure, I packed Christmas ribbon to measure and compare against a ruler later. (This is what I did last week, haha)
I think the two greatest challenges to any fitness plan is your (1) willpower and (2) social situations, and both were definitely challenged this weekend. I started off strong by having a completely paleo breakfast (bacon and eggs), and during wine tastings, I was sipping on half servings so that I could be the Designated Driver. This followed with a lot of non-paleo snacking (Goldfish and oyster crackers) to “soak” up the alcohol. Really, I think it was just my excuse to indulge, but I was telling myself that doing so would be “smart” since the Paleo nuts and fruit I had packed didn’t seem like they would be as beneficial…
Then, to our happy surprise, an engagement! We felt so blessed to be there celebrating with our friends. My husband switched over to becoming DD when he thought I was too giddy to drive, which followed with him pouring the remainder of his tastings into my glass. Not long thereafter, my night went to poop. I’m petite and I don’t drink very much in general, so when I started doing the whole tastings, I became extremely ill. So ill that even the smallest sip of water caused me to throw up. Very embarrasing and not the way I wanted to be on such an important night. The groom’s parents even treated everyone to a really fine, French restaurant for dinner where the group enjoyed wine pairings to the chef’s off-the-menu courses… but even the smallest nibble of anything sent me to the bathroom so it was a meal wasted on me and on the groom’s father because I think he was still charged full price for it all.
I’m very lucky to have the most understanding group of friends and the bride and groom to be were so sweet and forgiving. “You’re so much smaller than the rest of us… it’s no surprise…”
On Sunday we traveled home, hitting up two breweries along the way. I didn’t drink at either, choosing to eat instead. 1 bagel at the bagel shop (no real paleo options there), a batch of french fries at the pub, and I went carte blanche on eating anything and everything. When we got back home, we joined more friends to watch the 49ers game, and were encouraged to taste the wedding cake samples that someone had brought with them. I probably ate 2-3 cupccakes and we even took some home.
I have a lot of regrets from this weekend, but I did learn two lessons:
- Moderation is relative to your specific situation. When my 6′ tall husband splits a meal halfsies with barely 5′ me, the caloric impact on each of us is going to be different. Likewise, if he has several beers a week and I don’t drink at all, a “moderate” amount of alcohol will affect me differently than it will for him. I want to remember this when considering “reasonable” portion sizes of both food AND alcohol going forward.
- Plan for social events and slip-ups. We had a wedding last weekend and a birthday/engagement this weekend that caused me to go off plan. Additionally, we have another birthday party next weekend, followed by the Super Bowl the weekend after. Life is about compromise, so if I want to be healthier and not miss out on all the fun in life, it might help to plan my week or decisions better beforehand. That way I don’t just throw up my hands and order another round of shots or cupcakes and pretend I’m not actually trying to get fit.
I hope everyone else has had a good week and a wonderful weekend. Also, does anyone have any tips on planning for social events or recovering after slip-ups? Right now, I’m trying to do penance by drinking a lot of water and kombucha but I feel like I could use all the advice I can get!
I think I only slept 5.5 hours last night. Maybe less since I spent the final two hours dozing in and out of consciousness, so it definitely wasn’t restful. For whatever reason, I constantly find myself negotiating “just a few more minutes” of time on the internet or reading an article or whatever my urgent desire is… only to feel sluggish and exhausted the next day. Everyone says sleeping more is better for your health and productivity, but did you know that sleep deprivation is actually making us fat?
Yes, but why?
Sleep is important for maintaining hormonal balance and for giving your body time to focus on muscle repair and other maintenance activities that it can’t do while you’re awake. Not only that, sleep has been shown to stabilize and enhance memory making it even more important if you’ve been studying for a test or tackling a big project at work! Lack of sleep causes hormonal imbalance by increasing your body’s level of ghrelin and decreasing its level of leptin.
Ghrelin is a hunger stimulating hormone that increases when you haven’t eaten in a while in order to stimulate your appetite. After a meal, your body releases leptin to signal satiety and stop the hunger cravings. Any imbalance in the way these hormones work together, or even a chronic imbalance such as when you habitually deprive yourself of sleep, can cause hunger cravings which can ultimately lead to overeating, late night snacking, and weight gain
Sleep deprivation can also cause disruption in your cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Cortisol helps keep your body prepared to tackle stressful situations and does so by breaking down protein (yikes!) into glucose so you have quick energy available for a fight-or-flight moment. Unfortunately, most of us (even in modern day stressful situations) don’t need this type of energy so the excess glucose that cortisol makes available in the bloodstream ends up getting stored as fat.
… also, under chronic stress, cortisol can create an insulin resistance in your body. You’ll start to crave carb heavy foods to “fuel” your body and then your body will immediately work to store these calories as fat (particularly around your abdominals and soft organs) if you don’t actually need them right away.
… and in case that isn’t incentive enough, I also learned…
- core body temperature kicks up during sleep causing us to burn 3x more calories sleeping than when you’re lying in bed awake (heck yeah, muscle repair!)
- sleep burns ~150 calories per hour
- REM — the deepest state of sleep — increases your metabolism
- sleep improves your memory! (mentioned above but worth repeating :))
If you have trouble sleeping, try following these suggestions to coax in a good night of rest:
- Sleep in a cool, dark room. Make it a sanctuary and consider a fan if it tends to get warm.
- Set your alarm clock for time to go to bed (8 hours)
- Naps can undo some of the negative effects associated with lack of sleep. If, like me, you have trouble recovering from a short nap, try a “nap-a-latte” (coffee immediately prior to napping in the afternoon) [source: Dr. Oz show]. The nap will refresh your body, and the caffeine will help wake you up after a brief period of rest.
- Reset your internal clock to fall asleep at the same time every day. Try to get up at the same time on the weekends.
- Employ an app to get you in the mood. I really enjoy “Ambiance” in the iTunes store and “White Noise” in the Android market.
- Try a warm cup of non-caffeinated tea before bed. Celestial Seasonings “Sleepytime” is always a favorite, but chamomile and lavender flavors are also good.
Are you good at getting the daily recommended sleep requirement (8 hours)? What tricks do you have for a restful night of sleep?
Happy Sunday! It’s been quite a fun and eventful weekend so I apologize for not posting my Week one stats yesterday as planned. It got off to a great start back at work complete with a New Year work celebration on Friday (games and free Chinese food for the entire building!), and followed by a wedding yesterday for two of our dear friends. Sunday funday has been more relaxed and after this post, I have tons of chores and planning to do before the week ahead.
|Weight||108.2 lbs (-0.4 lbs from Monday)|
Overall, I think my first week was a success although there are still some significant areas for improvement. I started off the challenge by setting myself some specific, measurable goals to try and achieve by the end of these 8 weeks.
Sleeping 7+ hours sleep each night: I attempted to do this, but don’t think I managed this a single night each week. I try to wake up at 5:10am every day, which means that I should try to be asleep in bed at approximately 10pm every night, but that’s usually the time I head to my room to start getting ready for bed. Also, I had trouble falling asleep each night and that may have been restlessness from finally going back to work and thinking about all the work that needed catching up on. This week, I’m going to try something new by setting myself a “bed time” alarm so I have a trigger to stop what I’m doing and get ready for sleep.
10+ glasses of water each day: I only managed this on maybe half of the days, and I specifically remember not achieving it on one day because I tried to wear 5 inch heels to work to break them in for the weekend (I normally wear sneakers). It hurt so much to get up and go to the water fountain, so I didn’t! Haha. bad call. I’ll try better this week. 🙂
30+ minutes of daily fitness: Success! The first thing I did every morning this week was a T-25 training session. This is my first full week of doing the program and I have mixed feelings. I love the Cardio and Speed sessions, but I struggled significantly with all the body weight sessions (Upper Body, Abdominals, and Lower Body). Also, I’m not all that active, but I felt like 25 minutes + cool down just didn’t feel like enough activity for me… I craved more! On Thursday, I actually did two T-25 sessions instead of 1 and on Friday, I fit in three mini workouts (T-25, weight lifting at the gym, and brief rock climbing session with my husband). I’ll try to put more effort into the exercise program, but maybe I’m thinking I’ll be happier if I just leave myself enough time for two back-to-back workouts.
Paleo nutrition: I’m really enjoying my Paleo transition, and I’m especially appreciating the way my body feels less bloated and fussy. However, I still don’t love eating fatty or greasy foods (which is generally okay on this diet) and think I would like to keep my low-quality fat consumption (like non-organic meats and oils) to a minimum. I recently re-discovered some notes I made several years ago on Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet (vegan) and 90% of my takeaways actually aligned with Paleo principles. Interesting, huh? The main difference of course being the whole meat eating thing.
My biggest pain points here was all the snacking/grazing I did, and then I allowed myself lots of wiggle room for the wedding this weekend. Also, I learned that having tons of food made ahead of time decreases the amount of cooking I have to do during the week which is a good thing.
No snacking within 3 hours of bed: Success except for 1 day this week when I intentionally ate supper with my husband immediately before bed.
Changes in the week ahead:
I feel like I got off to a good start, but I know I could’ve done a lot better on a number of things. Also, social activities like the wedding this past weekend, or an upcoming wine country trip next weekend are quick ways to derail a fitness program, so I want to be more focused early in the week so I can relax a bit when I’m with friends. These are the modifications I’m planning for the week ahead:
- Start a 100 pull-up challenge program to support my goal of 10 consecutive pullups
- Plan for 1-2 days of heavy weight training in the gym
- Set a sleep alarm for 9:30pm to remind me to shut down my electronics and my brain for the evening
Hope all has been well with everyone else this week and weekend!
How are you all doing with your goals so far? So far so good or are there things you’re planning to change?
Last night, I was in a cooking mood and after putting some chicken thighs and veggies in the oven to roast, I found myself cleaning out the cupboards looking for some sort of Paleo dessert to make. Enter these coconut almond cookie bites.
I’ve made them a few times before, sometimes adding cocoa powder instead of cacao nibs, and they’re great to have on hand so when I find myself in the kitchen foraging for a snack, I can grab one of these really quick and leave the area quickly. And the recipe is so easy, you can truly make this anytime with minimal work involved.
I don’t know if you would even call this a recipe since it only requires mixing three ingredients, but here is how i make these:
- 8 tbsp almond butter (home-made or store bought is fine)
- 8 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tbsp cacao nibs
- (optional) 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- (optional) 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir mixture until well blended
- Divide into small teaspoon or tablespoon sized dollops, and place on a parchment paper lined plate or cookie sheet. (I made them into ball shapes for the photo, but you don’t have to.)
- Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Once frozen, transfer to a storage container and leave in the freezer
See? Super easy! Enjoy these sparingly if you’re on a fat loss fitness program like I am because these are primarily almond butter (fat) and are oh so snackable. I leave these in the freezer as bringing them to room temperature or holding in your fingers for a while causes the almond butter to unfreeze. Feel free to play around with proportions or ingredients to make these to your preference.
This morning I was awake and working out by 5:30am, which was impressive considering all the sleeping in I’ve done these last two weeks. I hope it lasts! However, in my rush to get out the door and back to my first day of work in 2014, breakfast became three slices of bacon and an almond milk chai latte.
Yes, it felt just as unhealthy as it sounds.
Lesson #1: commit to higher quality breakfast options. Realization #1: my body doesn’t love bacon as much as my taste buds do. Also, I started drinking a lot of almond milk lattes recently, but I didn’t really drink almond milk before this and I don’t feel like my body is digesting it efficiently. I’m actually more of a flax milk kind of girl but flax won’t make a nice frothy latte due to its negligible protein content. I’m wondering if my stomach dislikes all the added components in the store-bought stuff so I’m thinking of experimenting with a home-made almond milk recipe sometime soon.
I also unintentionally packed a really light lunch of beef stir-fry, with intent to buy something else from the work cafeterias but I never got around to it. I stopped by the grocery store on my way home and when I saw my favorite candy (dark chocolate covered espresso beans, oh so good!) on sale, I caved and bought some. Had a handful in the store and a handful in the car on the way home, and 45 minutes later, I was nursing a MAJOR hangover-ish headache. Lesson #2: a body on sugar detox can’t handle a sugar rush.
Whoops. I feel like I’ve read that warning somewhere before…
So I end today with two regrets and two lessons to carry on with me through the rest of my challenge. There is a paleo vegetarian quiche cooling on the counter now so it’ll be ready to pack and go for both breakfast and lunch tomorrow. Here’s to better luck, mañana!