More on habits

A while back, I posted about trying to establish some new habits.  It’s a work in progress.  It’s difficult to establish habits when you’re not yet into a routine.  Our routine really won’t begin until Wednesday.  Today is a weird administrative day for passing out schedules, getting pictures taken, etc., so it’s not normal.  So, I’m taking it a day at a time, which is what I think I’m just going to have to do.  I never know when I’m going to need to stay late for a meeting or to help a student.  Geeky Girl sometimes wants to do things with friends after school and I’ll just wait for her.  Days just don’t always go as planned.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have managed to keep a few habits that have helped me keep the house a little neater.  I’ve been putting things away rather than to leave them sitting and then have a pile to deal with days (or weeks) later: dishes, clothes, shoes.  Whenever I notice something isn’t where it’s supposed to be, I take it where it needs to go.  So far, I’ve been good about this.  I might miss a day, but never two.

Mr. Geeky and I also started finishing up some long neglected house projects.  We put up the drywall in the bathroom and I spackled the front porch to prep for painting (it’s been naked drywall for about 5 years).  I think we both feel better about keeping things neat when the rooms under the clutter look good.  Speaking of which, we still have a lot of clutter to get rid of, but we’re working on it.

Fitting in exercise is still a challenge.  My fitbit shows my walking activity to be all over the map.  I’d say I’m averaging between 5 and 6K steps per day, far below the 10k recommendation/goal.  I know myself well enough to know that trying to get in an extra walk in the morning isn’t going to work.  I only give myself about an hour to get ready and get out the door.  Squeezing in a 1/2 hour walk isn’t going to happen.  And there’s no getting me out of bed any earlier.  If work started at 9, that’d be one thing, but I start at 8.  I’m planning to walk in the afternoon/evening, bringing clothes to work every day, so that I can go from work if I want.  I’m just really good at talking myself out of taking a long walk.  It’s too hot, too cold, raining, not enough time, etc.  Those are the things I really need to overcome.

Once school really starts, I think there will be other things I want to do, so I’m sure I’ll revisit this issue again.  I keep trying.  At some point, I’ll succeed.

Let’s talk about food

summer lunch
summer lunch (Photo credit: lorda)

So I invested in a scale yesterday.  And it was not pretty.  I’ve gained close to 10 pounds since starting my job.  I had gained close to 10 pounds after quitting my previous job, which I wrote off as being at home and having ready access to food as well as sitting most of the day.  That’s 20 pounds in about 5 years.  At that rate, in 20 more years, I’d be 80 pounds heavier than I am now.  And that is truly not acceptable.

While I was away, I logged my food, but did not count my alcohol intake.  Food-wise I did pretty good, staying under my preferred calories (usually by adding in exercise). With the alcohol, though, I’m certain I was way over.  I’m not finding it difficult, really at all.  I even had a scoop of ice-cream or two.  Normally, that would be two scoops a day.  The fact that I only had two all week is a victory.  The alcohol intake is problematic.  While I do go for days without drinking, in the summer, that’s more rare.  But I’m sure that the glass of wine or two or the beer or two a night is a contributing factor to that 10 pounds.  Not to mention the chips and dip.

Exercise is what I really need to work on because I can easily eliminate problem foods, even the alcohol, but it doesn’t matter if I don’t exercise.  But I need to do both.  I don’t think I can eat and drink whatever I want every day even if I exercise and expect to even maintain my weight.  My metabolism just isn’t what it used to be.

I’ve been exercising almost every day.  I at least take a walk every day.  I walk close to 2 miles, which takes about 40 minutes, so it’s a good pace.  But, I’m realizing I need to do a bit more, maybe something more active.  Running is out of the question.  I tried and it killed my back and knee.  I want to be able to walk when I’m 60 even if I am 60 pounds overweight.  I rented a bike at the beach and that worked out well.  I only rode about 10 miles or so at a time but still, that was better exercise (and more fun) than walking.  I do think the exercise thing is becoming a habit.  And that’s a good thing.  Hopefully, I can keep that up.

Yesterday, I read this article in The Atlantic, to which I said, yes, yes, yes.  I love organic and local food, but with a busy schedule and a tight budget, it’s just not possible for me to take the “moral high road” as often as I’d like.  What I’d like to see is processed food that’s better for you and still tastes pretty good and is reasonably priced, which is what the article argues for.  On the road, we resorted to fast food, stopping at a Burger King, a Taco Bell, a Subway, and a Cracker Barrel.  There are healthy, even vegetarian, options at all those places.  Usually only one, maybe two, but still it’s possible to eat healthy fast food.  Cracker Barrel had the most options.  All their meals in the wholesome menu were around 500 calories and low in fat and carbs.  And they cost the same as other menu options. We need more of that: a less fatty burger, side items besides fries, smoothies that don’t have 4 million calories even if they do have some additives.  I cook a lot.  We have vegetables all the time, which I cut and steam, etc.  But things do get busy and I need options that don’t make me feel like I’m poisoning myself or my family.

I will gladly support a fast-food place that’s working to be more sustainable and more healthy and keep costs down. And I will gladly put pressure on them to do so, rather than banning them from my diet altogether. To me, that makes more sense, because I don’t think McDonald’s is going away any time soon and I don’t think it’s going to be replaced by some health food version of it either.  I think having quick and easy and healthy options would help me–and a whole lot of other people.

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Update on the body front

So far so good.  I’m using a fair amount of technology to keep track of my progress.  I’m using LoseIt to track food and RunKeeper to track actual exercise as well as Accupedo for tracking basic steps taken throughout the day.  Here’s what I’ve learned over the last few days:

  1. I eat a lot of carbs.  Most days over 50% of my intake is carbs.  I can’t decide if that’s bad or good.  Most of my carbs are things like whole wheat bread and brown rice and beans.  Aren’t we supposed to eat more grains?
  2. I’m pretty sedentary.  Even with a 30-40 minute walk during the day, I barely break 5,000 steps per day.  And I wish I could blame that on the fact that I don’t always carry my phone with me.
  3. The 4 p.m. time slot works pretty well, though it comes up fast on days when I don’t get started until 9/9:30.  During the school year, when I start at 7:30, 4 p.m. definitely feels like the end of the day.  Now, it feels like 2/3 of the way through.  But I’m going to stick with it.
  4. My shorts still fit!  I put on some of my non-elastic waistband shorts this morning and though one pair felt a little tight (always has really), they all fit comfortably.  I’d love for them to be just a smidge looser.  I’m talking a 1/2 inch or so off the waistline.

So that’s all pretty good feedback.  I’m actually going to invest in a scale, so I can see the weight feedback.  Next week when I’m on vacation, all bets are kind of off on the food front.  I don’t have a huge amount of control over the food, especially for dinner.  On the flip side, I’m more active, so it could work out just fine.  I’m not going to be fanatic about it, but I’m still going to try to maintain better eating and exercising habits than I might otherwise.  Another thing I’m doing is working on a minor knee injury, which is adding a little to my exercise plate.  Not burning very many calories, but certainly beefing up some muscle.

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Body image, take 45

I went swimsuit shopping yesterday.  Such a painful process.  When I’m wearing clothes, I feel pretty good about my looks and body shape.  I feel like I’m at a point where I select clothes that accentuate the good and downplay the bad.  I look pretty good most days.  But a bathing suit can’t hide as much as I’d like it to, so I’m forced to face those parts of my body that haven’t aged well, that I haven’t taken care of.  Sigh.

Mr. Geeky is always telling me I look good (he’s a smart hubby), and I know he really means it, but this is a part of my life I’ve neglected, and not just recently.  I’ve never, not since 8th grade, worked very hard to stay in shape.  I was blessed until my early 30s with a good metabolism and good eating habits.  I would sometimes binge exercise–after having kids, for example–but never established any kind of routine or fit it into my lifestyle.  When things get busy or stressful, I often resort to really bad eating habits: chips and dip, ice cream, bags of candy.  I can’t seem to stay on track.

The thing is, I do have a lot going on, and unlike family dinners or blogging, for that matter, health and exercise are at the bottom of my list. The only person I’m accountable to for eating well and moving around some is myself.  I’m not in poor enough health to be concerned for my life, and my immediate family could care less if my love handles are bigger than I’d like.  In other words, I lack good incentives.

Lately, I’ve come to believe in feedback.  I know, duh.  A few years ago, I read Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), which is a great read if you like nonfiction.  One of the big messages in that is that drivers don’t get enough feedback about how fast they’re going, so they don’t know to slow down.  I’ve used a feedback loop to help manage my finances.  Basically, I check my accounts every couple of days.  While I still have a lot of work to do on the finance front, I have a very good idea of the areas that need work.  I need something similar for my health.  The standard feedback is pounds lost, of course, but a) I don’t have a scale; and b) it’s not enough of a reward to keep me motivated.  I’m a sucker for rewards.  I use them to trick myself all the time.  When I was a waitress, I would reward myself with a CD purchase if I made more than a certain amount in tips.  I was trying to save money at the time for a big purchase, but didn’t want to deprive myself too much.  So I calculated how much I needed to make in tips each night to have enough to meet my goal and if I made $10 or so over that, I’d buy a CD.  It worked really well.  I’d sometimes work an extra hour to make that or take on an extra table.

A while back, I was sort of rewarding/punishing myself by saying I couldn’t buy any new clothes until I lost weight, but again, the slowness of that feedback didn’t really work.  I need rewards for short and long term success.  Preferably things that don’t cost anything.  I read somewhere that one should think of “getting to” exercise rather than “having to” exercise.  I don’t think that small adjustment to thinking is going to work for me.  I’ve also thought about doing activities I like, but some of the things I like are expensive.

But, I have some ideas.  I’m going to try them over the summer and see if they work.  Here they are.

1. Vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch (I actually almost already do this, so I don’t think this will be too hard).

2. Some kind of activity every day at 4:00.  – I picked 4:00 because even on work days I’m usually free.  If I get in the habit over the summer, maybe I can stick with it during the school year.

3. No sugar.  I’m a sucker for sugar, but I don’t usually miss it when I don’t have it.  I’m not including alcohol because, hey, it’s summer and I know that’s not going to happen.

And that’s it for now.  I’m going to work on the reward part.  A bath after my workout? A new piece of clothing after a week?  We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.  And if you have ideas, please let me know.  The things listed above, I’ve gotten from other places myself.  If something’s worked for you, I’d love to hear about it.

Routine Progress

So the routines.  The kids are doing great.  They’ve gotten up every day at the appointed time and balanced their day well between work and play.  Geeky Boy is on a strict 3-hours per day computer schedule.  The rest of his time is spent reading, watching tv with his sister (they’re on a Phineas and Ferb kick right now), playing Boggle, or doing household chores.  I had planned to do my workouts before coffee, but it’s just not working out that way.  For one, my shoulder injury is making it difficult for me to sleep, so I wake up feeling just awful.  I have worked out in the afternoon, though, and I think that’s where the workout needs to stay.  I can’t force myself into a habit that I think just isn’t going to take hold.  I’m planning to work out again this afternoon (after skipping yesterday).  And I’m going to also aim for working out tomorrow, skip Friday, and do either Saturday or Sunday.  I’m also having to do PT exercises for my shoulder–but those are mostly stretches.  So the routine is coming along, though it’s been tweaked.

On the house front, I’m now tackling the master bathroom and the office.  Both are going pretty well.  I dumped a bunch of things in both places, and I plan on tackling my main filing box today, which should be a really good thing.

I’m hoping to continue progress next week, and, when school starts up, I plan to make a real effort to keep at it.  The payoff will be less chaos, and hopefully, fewer pounds. 🙂

Things I need to do more of

Exercise.  And to go with that, less eating.

Read offline.

Exercise has totally fallen off the agenda.  It has to get back on it.  And I hate that this topic keeps coming up.

Reading has also fallen off the agenda.  For much the same reason as exercise has.  I come home and I’m too tired to do much of anything.  I tend to zone out in front of the tv–current obsession: How I Met Your Mother.  I read blogs and news online, but reading books, despite having several good options on my Nook, has not been part of my regular routine.

I need to figure out how to make this happen, but part of me thinks that juggling a job, afterschool activities–my own and the kids’, and a house, leaves little to no room for much else.  The reading could easily replace tv, but exercise requires a bit more motivation.  But now that the snow is clearing, maybe there’s hope for exercise.

Oh, and the Wii exercise plan failed, not because the idea wasn’t good, but because the remodel took away the original space designated for Wii Fit goodness.  Once it’s done, there’ll be space again, but that’s probably a month away.

Health, Exercise, Food

Like Laura over at 11D, I’ve been thinking about food and health and exercise more since I now have the time to do so.  I’ve slowed down on cooking randomly through my cookbook, but that’s due in part to the fact that Geeky Boy has decided to become a vegetarian.  This is killing Mr. Geeky, but the rest of us don’t really mind going without meat.  I did a little clothes shopping this weekend and found it to be a depressing experience.  I haven’t really changed much size wise and my size, by all standards, is a size most people would kill to be in, but I have gained weight in the last five years or so and that weight is settling in places that make me feel, well, fat.  At the very least, it’s making it hard to find clothes that fit well.  Winter was easier.  Everything is bulky and pants cover up any unpleasantness in the hips and thighs.  But shorts and t-shirt weather is coming and there are bulges that I just can’t live with anymore.  Mr. Geeky thinks I’m crazy, and maybe I am.  And this will be the millionth time I’ve declared I’m doing something about this, but really, I mean it.

Although I walk the dog every day for 1/2 hour to an hour, I feel like I need to do more than that.  I’m not going to run because my knees are bad, and I’m don’t feel like going to the gym.  It just doesn’t appeal.  I’ve tried it.   So, I’m going to try going back to the Wii Fit in addition to walking and perhaps upgrading to EA Active.  And I’d like to do that for at least a 1/2 hour every day.  Bolstering my new-found desire to increase my physical activity is this New York Times article about some of the latest scientific research about exercise.  The bad news: it’s true that women have a harder time losing weight and exercise can make you want to eat more.  The good news: we may not need to exercise as vigorously or for as long as originally thought:

Streaming through much of the science and advice about exercise and weight loss is a certain Puritan streak, a sense that exercise, to be effective in keeping you slim, must be of almost medicinal dosage — an hour a day, every day; plenty of brisk walking; frequent long runs on the treadmill. But the very latest science about exercise and weight loss has a gentler tone and a more achievable goal. “Emerging evidence suggests that unlike bouts of moderate-vigorous activity, low-intensity ambulation, standing, etc., may contribute to daily energy expenditure without triggering the caloric compensation effect,” Braun wrote in the American College of Sports Medicine newsletter.

Ideally, what I’d like to see happen is for exercise to fit into my day as seamlessly as writing does.  Like the writing habit, it may take me a while to establish it as a habit.

An Update on the Gym Situation

I joined the gym this afternoon. The owner actually remembered me, which was nice. It’s actually a bit less meat-locker-y than I remember it. They have a huge number of classes for seniors and when I was there this afternoon, I’d say the average age was about 45-50. I suspect this has something to do with the time of day. I used to go in the evenings, when it was often young 20-something men and women looking to beef themselves up.

As I was walking into my house after signing up, I ran into my neighbor whom I often see on my walks. She runs and/or walks every day, often accompanied by her husband, who rides a bike. “Isn’t this weather great?” she shouted to me. I grimaced a little, as it was just under 40, a temperature I can manage, for sure, but I don’t consider it pleasant. Turns out, she’s from Canada. This feels balmy for her. I’m from the South. This is as cold as it gets in many of the places I’ve lived. I used to ski and do winter sports through my 20s. But I’ve lost my tolerance.

Plus, through the gym, I have access to yoga classes, which I’ve been wanting to restart. I think it will be good for me.

Contemplating Training

So, I kicked off some serious fund raising efforts yesterday and although the walk itself is 317 days away, 20 miles is a lot. And it’s winter. And I am a weather wimp. And I’m running out of paths. A treadmill would offer me the opportunity to walk as far as I want without having to figure out where I can walk to. In my immediate neighborhood, through which I have walked numerous times, I can count on sidewalks and other amenities for walking. A long circuit I developed is a little over 3 miles. I could zigzag through blocks and probably get it up to 5 miles. But bleh. Venturing out of the neighborhood, to walk to the next town over for example, means no sidewalks in many places and heavily trafficked streets. Sometimes both together. I don’t relish the idea of walking along a main thoroughfare with no sidewalk.

So, in thinking about the treadmill, I’ve thought, well, I could purchase one or I could rejoin the gym around the corner just for the use of the treadmill. They don’t have contracts or anything and it’s a nice gym. On the other hand, it might be nice to have a treadmill in the house, problem being a) we have no room; and b) they’re really pricey. Even if both Mr. Geeky and I joined the gym, the cost for a whole year would be half that of a good treadmill. So I’m leaning toward joining the gym, even though it seems a little silly to do so just for the treadmill.

Long time readers know that I am not good at keeping up with exercise. And even with a 60-mile walk facing me, I find myself easily putting off the work. If I’m putting money into the gym membership, that would certainly make me feel compelled to use it. And I can walk at a variety of times–early morning, night–times I won’t walk outside because it’s too cold or it’s dark. Any advice, oh wise readers?