Monday, June 23, 2008

The Food We Eat

Stuffing one of several (more than five) donuts in her mouth, I overhear one clinically, moderately obese (defined as more than 40% over ideal weight) woman to another in similar sorts, "I'm just going to tell her I had an egg for breakfast. I mean, I did have an egg. I'm just not going to mention the donuts." (Fire your dietician now! You aren't listening to her anyway!)

A week later, I overheard a similar conversation between two women in the same plight. "Yes, it's much better to eat those calories as protein. And don't eat late at night," whilst sipping a fat-laden, super-sized, Starbucks concoction topped with inches of whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Both of these conversations have weighed on my mind non-stop since they occurred in the past few weeks.
All four of these women blame their genes or their glands or some other mysterious malady on their obesity.

Fact: If you are doing 60 minutes of at least moderate exercise five times per week, and you are still overweight, it's your diet. And if you aren't even exercising... don't blame your genes for making you fat.

How many times have you gone to the gym, and seen the same people there, day after day, week after week, on the same machine and they never look any different? Do you ever wonder why? It's what they are eating!

True confession here:
Every member of my immediate genetic family has struggled with their weight, especially once they passed their 20s. Obesity--even morbid obesity (defined as 100% or more over your ideal weight)--runs in my family. Every cell in my body cries out to weigh 300 pounds. I could be a competitive eater, especially involving cheese pizza, hot dogs or sushi. Preferably all three. At the same time. All I really want to do is lay on the couch of doom and eat cheese pizza morning, noon and night. Throw in some beer, an occasional glass of red wine... oh and maybe some cookie dough!

But this morning, as has been consistently for the past two weeks, I have weighed 111 pounds. This does not come naturally to me. I work very, very hard for it. It is most certainly NOT in my genes. And the difference of the last ten pounds that I have shaved off since about January has been exclusively, totally about a very disciplined diet.

I began with Tosca's "Eat Clean" diet, which had amazing results. It reduced my dependence on sugar, taught me to think more about eating "whole, natural" foods. This means shopping on the outside perimeter of the grocery store. If you have to go down the aisles, you probably don't need it. However, on some level, this wasn't enough to meet my endurance needs. I had a hard time processing sugar when I wanted to (and might be one reason I became so nauseated during Ottawa, forcing sugary gels into my body so I wouldn't go hypoglycemic).

Earlier this week, I had the following conversation with my husband, who was kind enough to grill the angus beef patties I had prepared for dinner. Because I was stuck on a conference call, I didn't get a chance to give him instructions about mine. And when I came out to eat several hours later, I found that he'd put cheese on each and every remaining one. Not saying a word, I began scraping the cheese off the patty.

"Nice job scraping the cheese," he commented as he walked in on the scene.

"I don't eat cheese anymore," I explained.

"Oh, since when is this new fad come to pass?" he innocently inquired.

"Believe it or not, I haven't had any cheese for over a month," I replied. (Note: I will likely allow myself an occasional slice of cheese pizza, as it is my greatest weakness and most desired food of all time. But, I need to get that under control right now.)

I currently follow a diet that is even more strict than "Eat Clean." I gave up dairy, almost exclusively (I'll probably write more about reasons for that later). I continue to live without soda (I haven't had a soft drink since March '07). I eat eggs, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, raisins, nuts, and a lot of lean meats. I pack food most of the time when I have to go somewhere. And, I eat fairly frequently. Most important secret? It's about having abundant healthy food choices available nearby at all times. If you are hungry, and you only have unhealthy food choices, you will make the wrong choice every time.

My message for the week on diet and how you want your body to look: You have a choice!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Perfect Friend

I arrived home from my trip to FL / GA to find a medium brown box sitting on my side of the bed. "Hmm....," I thought, "I wasn't expecting any packages." Picking it up, I saw it was from Bonnie, my BFF and co-worker. She must be sending me a test phone or something... but I was curious, so I opened it right away.

Tucked inside was a "Congratulations!" card on my new PR and finish in Ottawa. Wrapped up inside was a lightweight, white hat with "26.2" and a running girl on the front. Two years ago after several traveling trips together, we quickly bonded and it wasn't long before she was my BFF. This is a picture of us together in Mountain View after a hard day of work in the corporate office.

Bonnie, though she is not a runner, shares many similar interests. She's as dedicated to her work-outs as I am running, and even more disciplined in her diet. She constantly inspires me, lifts me up and encourages me. And this weekend, she'll be entering her first figure competition (one of three classes of this genre: body building, fitness and figure). Bonnie, you are totally going to win! When you walk out there on stage, act like you've already won! Wish I could be there to cheer you on. :-)

Knowing that we are the "fitness gurus" of the office, we are often kidded in various ways. Once, a VP teased us, "So, Alex, do you think Bonnie could beat you up?" I quickly assured him there was no doubt (I mean, look at the guns on her arms; I have sticks for arms), but concluded, "I can still outrun her."

And now, I promote Bonnie to the status of Perfect Friend! You rock, Bonnie! Thank you!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lost in Ft. Benning

It was still dark when I went out to run, but I wanted to be finished before the sun came up and the heat of the day began. As I was driving in town last night the local bank thermometer read 101 degrees F. So, I quickly studied the map of the complex, had a general plan (how hard could it be?) and headed out. My Garmin eventually synched, and I was off, feeling good to be running somewhere new (always a treat).

After about a quarter of a mile I got to my first planned turn, only to look at the street signs in utter confusion (remember, it's dark). This was not the intersection I wanted, but the signs had one of the streets onto which I wanted to turn at some point in the run. Hm. I must have been 90 degrees off at the start. No worries, though, this looks like a bit of a stretch ahead, I am just turning onto a street that I don’t recognize.

As I reached .74 miles, my Garmin lost GPS signal and I could not re-acquire. It occurs to me that since I am on a military compound with all kinds of radio towers, perhaps there is some kind of interference with the signal to my watch and it won’t work again. This should have been my first warning to go back, because it is now clear (a) I am off course at least 90 degrees and on a part of the map I did not study, (b) my Garmin is going to be of no help, (c) it’s dark and I don’t have a plan and, of course most importantly, for those of you who know me, (d) I have absolutely no sense of direction.

But I’m an independent spirit with a bit of a sense of adventure, so I press on. I figure that I’m running just below 9 minute per mile pace, so I would just run for 36 minutes to complete about 4 miles, and then begin a walk back to find my way. No use running and searching, because I’ll ruin the run. A nice cool down walk at sunrise will be nice, and I can read the signs and see better then anyway.

At about the 15-minute mark, a large group of military runners is going down the street, and this looks like a good idea. I think, maybe I could follow them about 200-300 yards back (with great discretion, not with them or disturbing them in any way). Surely they are out for a few miles and I’ll just retrace my steps. But, it’s immediately evident my pace is much quicker, and it would be bad form to catch up and pass them. I turn around and head the other direction.

I finish 36 minutes, and I realize I am hopelessly lost. Nothing looks familiar, and I’m not even exactly sure which direction to go to start looking. I take a swag at it, and head down a large street. But nothing looks familiar. After about 10 minutes, I sit down to think, reminding myself what an idiot I am. The sun is coming up, and I can now point due east, but that means nothing to me except it’s getting warm. And of course I didn’t carry anything with me (water or phone). I know there is a tracking mechanism on my Garmin, and I decide to give that another shot. I power-cycle it, and it eventually acquires, and I stumble through the menu to try to figure it out. It does have a “start” point recorded, but of course, I’ve been unchartered for well over 3 miles and since I’ve turned it off, so I’m not sure it’s correct. I try the hot / cold method walking towards the point that is shown, and eventually make it back—quite a bit later.

Lessons learned:

  1. Know your intended direction: North, South, East or West. At some point, you can get a bearing. The sunrise was useless for me, but could have helped.
  2. Once you acquire your GPS location start, go ahead and mark it as a saved location just in case something happens (like you lose signal, or reset your device).
  3. If you really don’t know the area, don’t just study the map, BRING IT (D’oh!).
  4. If you study the map, don’t just study the path you intend, but study a few other key roads and intersections that might come in handy should things not work out as planned.
  5. If you are completely unprepared (no water, no money, no phone, no Garmin AND you are lost), and figure that out pretty early in your run, retrace your steps until you are on familiar ground and try again.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Keeping Up with Rick

"So, what age are your youngest kids?" Rick inquires after about 4 miles, seemingly not out of breath and his pulse hasn't broken 100 yet. I'm glad he's at least sweating, or I might have just given up.

"Six," I manage, thankful I can answer this in just one syllable. I want to add, "And they'll be 7 in August." But, I'm focused on one thing: Keeping up.

"You're not doing a very good job of holding back on this run!" Rick cheerfully notes, looking back, notably BEHIND himself.

What? Was it the sweat pouring off of me? Or the fact I haven't spoken more than 5 syllables in one burst for at least a mile?

All self-deprecating humor aside, this run was a lot of fun, and I felt so much better for it! By the time my shower was done, I felt quite refreshed and ready for another run again already. Too bad that will have to wait until tomorrow. And after a long conversation with Vince on Monday, I felt equally re-assured that my training would be hard enough for what is coming my way. That and today's run was exactly what I needed to shake any lingering blues!

Check out Rick's cool BIM site with Garmin data.