Back to Basics

Hello again and happy Friday! I am so excited to finally get back to you since microbiology is now done! Let the celebrating begin!

Bancroft cocktail

I don’t know about you, but with the snow, cold, and shorter days, my body has not been acting like itself. I was just about recovered from my holiday metabolic whiplash, when the Super Bowl and my birthday came along, and I was happy to have an excuse to indulge again. Ever since then I feel like I’ve been on one bad roller-coaster of cravings and increased appetite. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the incredibly cold temps, but I’m sure a part also has to do with my higher than usual sugar intake.

Chilly with text

I’m so sick of it that I decided to go back to basics to reboot my system a bit. Nothing crazy, just more accountability. For me, that means logging food in MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal logo

The biggest problem I found after a few days of logging my food? Not eating enough at breakfast and at lunch. No wonder I’d be so hungry once I got home! How did that happen? I think I started playing the comparison game (never a good one to play!) as I looked at other peoples’ breakfasts and lunches on other blogs. The thing I failed to remember, though, is many people graze throughout the day. I don’t–I eat only four times a day (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner) because I only eat every three to four hours, so each meal needs to have a solid 300+ calories.

Breakfast smoothie calories

The other inkling I had that I my eating was a bit more off? I seem to have a little more jiggle in the middle even though I’m more or less the same weight. Perhaps it’s my body’s ancient response to the cold, thinking I need to hold on to body fat to make it through the winter. Perhaps having a bulk of my calories at the end of the day and being so hungry caused me to overeat. Again, it’s most likely a combination of things.

Paleo oatmeal

Paleo oatmeal to help fill me up!

The other part that’s helpful about using MyFitnessPal is being able to see where my macros are going. I thought that I was eating more protein than I actually was, so increasing my protein will also be a focus for me. Protein always does a fabulous job of filling me up, and add in a good dose of fiber and fat? I’m good to go for hours!

Pollock over arugula

Protein and fat-filled dinner with a good dose of fiber

Another tool up my sleeve? I signed up to rent five fitness tracker through Lumoid. I want to see how many calories a day I’m actually burning so I can get a better idea of how much I should be eating. Depending on the calculations out there for my height, weight, age, and activity level, I should be eating anywhere from 1500-2000 calories. That’s a big difference! The service is also a great way to try out fitness trackers if you’re considering buying one. I’m already not digging wearing a tracker visibly on my wrist, so I don’t think the Jawbone UP is for me.

Jawbone UP

As I’ve always said, it’s not about the weight. It’s about feeling good and I just feel off. Tired, a bit stiff and achy (thanks again partially to the cold I think), weirdo appetite, and a bit softer than I’d like to be. I’m not soft by any means, but you know when you just don’t feel right in your skin? Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to make better. And I know that with a few minor tweaks, I’ll be there.

I’m sure the fact that spring is around the corner will help as well. I always find that once the warmer weather hits, the sun is out more, and I’m able to be outside more, my appetite and energy levels naturally regulates itself. Just having the warm sun shine on my face feels so good!

Questions: Do you have problems with your appetite in the winter? Do you usually stay on track? Do you use any tools to keep yourself on track?

Adventures in Weight Changes Revisited

Hi all! Happy Monday. I’m back to class this week. Having a week off in between was heavenly. It allowed me more time on the weekend so I could go to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline with WHH and my parents as part of WHH’s birthday gift. How amazing is this view of Boston from the top of the hill by the museum?

View from Larz Anderson Parl

WH Mom accidentally photobombing

I actually found the small bike collection to be more fascinating than the cars since a lot of the interesting parts of the cars were the mechanics that you couldn’t see. Can you imagine riding these bikes?

Antique bikes Larz Anderson

We went to Matt Murphy’s for drinks and appetizers after. They have a great selection of both and the cheese platter was delicious! Included were pickled onions, an Irish cheddar, walnuts, fried goat cheese, whole grain mustard, pistachio-thyme honey, blue cheese, pears, and pickles.

Cheese plate appetizer Matt Murphy's

Next up we walked a mere two restaurants down to Orinoco, one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area. They serve Venezuelan food and it is delicious! My favorite part, naturally, is being able to have their arepas (sandwiches) because the arepa is made of corn meal, so it’s naturally gluten-free. No pictures of my own to share, but here’s an example of some areaps from their FB page.

Orinoco arepas

Another thing I was able to do this weekend because I wasn’t in class? Organize the crazy amount of clothes I have that no longer fit me due to my slow and steady weight loss over the past two years. How much money’s worth of clothes do you think is here? Now you know why I’ve had to resort to mom pants in the past–I had no clothes that fit!

Pile of clothes too small

I counted about 22 tops, 18 bottoms, 5 dresses, 3 pieces of activewear, 1 bathing suit, 1 bra, and 1 coat. I tried on everything to see if it fit after I purposely gained a bit of weight following losing too much last summer. I was able to add a few tops and a pair of jeans to my current wardrobe, which I was thrilled about. The rest was divided into items to donate, items for ThredUp, and items to be kept for when/if I’m pregnant in the future. I”m glad to know that I’ll have a nice wardrobe I don’t have to pay for should that time come (no, Mom, I’m not subtly hinting that I’m pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant…don’t worry, you’ll be one of the first to know when it’s time).

As I was trying on my clothes, I thought it might be good to do a check-in from my last post since the other one was over two months ago. At that time I had gained ten pounds since the summer,  five of them since starting the blog in November. So, how has my weight fared since then? Let’s check it out (vertical lines are increments of 5 pounds).

Weight changes past 6 months

I’m still up at about the same weight as March. You can see how steady it’s been since February (within a 2-3 pound range, which is a normal variation for most people).

Weight change 3 months

My BMI is still in the middle of the normal range, which is a great place to be! I have no idea what my body fat percentage is, but I’ll probably be checking in with a personal trainer I worked with back in September and see if she can measure that. I would like to know as I was feeling like I had a little too much jiggle on my abdomen (visceral fat is no good and the place I unfortunately tend to store it first), but it seems that since swapping my morning yogurt parfait for a smoothie, as well as increased the intensity on some of my workouts, it’s melted away a bit.

BMI chart

I also showed you this picture last time:

Before and after weight gain

I just happened to take an updated picture last week, which was perfect timing (yes, I’m wearing the same top as in the March picture).

May body changes

I also found a picture of me from vacation that I’ve been hesitant to show, mostly because I’m in a bathing suit. But I think it perfectly illustrates how messed up my body was that the picture of in a tank and shorts can’t. Thankfully the bikini is hiding some of my ribs you could see at the time, but you can see how much I lack in the chest area as well as the sharp angles I’m rocking on my shoulders. Here I am, in all my skinny-fat glory:

Skinny fat

Yikes. Glad I’m not there any more. Well, not there there. That picture was taken in Switzerland. I’d give anything to go back there. Here’s what my view was while I was sitting there:

Lake Thun, Interlaken-Unterseen

Lake Thun, Switzerland

I noted back in March that it would be interesting to see what happened once I was able to run more and the weather got warmer. I do feel that my appetite is back to normal now that it’s warmer. My appetite was crazy over the winter. It was so hard for me to figure out if I really needed to eat or if my body was just tricking me into it since it was extra cold this winter.

The increased running actually hasn’t changed my appetite much. If anything, it seems to have dulled it slightly. I’m not reaching for a second helping at dinner as much and I’m not getting the hungry horrors about an hour after dinner.

It seems I’ve stayed on an even keel since the late winter and I’m so grateful to be here. But it’s not about the weight at the end of the day. It’s about being able to do what I want with my body and feeling good about myself. Sure, I still have fat days just like anyone else, and want to remain at a healthy weight while looking as good as I can, but mostly I want to feel confident, strong, and as though I can tackle anything. That’s what’s important to me. The numbers on the scale can go up and down (within reason), but as long as I feel good about myself and feel I am healthy, that’s all that matters.

Questions: How are you doing now that the weather has changed? Do you find your appetite dulled a bit, whether due to the weather or exercise intensity? Do you change up how you eat according to the seasons? Have you found a weight where you and your body are happiest?

Adventures in Weight Changes

Possible other title I was considering: How I’ve Gained Weight, Yet Still Fit in My Clothes.

True confession time: I’ve gained ten pounds since this summer and five of those pounds have been since I started this blog in November. Yes, an eyebrow raise is okay.

Weight change past year from MyFitnessPal

Weight change past year. Horizontal lines in increments of 5 pounds.

Say what? Yessir, it’s true. I’m more than okay with it and I’ll tell you why: I was underweight ten pounds ago. Sure, I was still in the reasonable weight range for someone my height. At my lowest weight I had a BMI of 18.7, which was seriously flirting with the underweight zone. At five pounds above my lowest weight I had some measurements done as part of my work’s “Spring into Action” challenge. At that time, I had a body fat percentage of 19.7%.

To put all of these numbers in perspective, here are the ranges for BMI and body fat percentage:

BMI chart

Body fat percentage chart

The other indicator that I was a bit too low? My period got a bit out of whack. Sorry if that’s TMI, but for us women, it’s definitely an indicator of what’s up with our health. You know something’s up when you go from your usual 29-32 day cycle to a 57 day cycle!

Whacky period

Now granted, there were some confounding factors: I was having incredibly painful Graston done at the time (intense pain can signal to your body that you’re not in any shape to bear children, thus throwing off your cycle) and my anxiety started spinning out of control. I was also unable to exercise and it was the summer, both of which dulled my appetite. So all in all, a great recipe for losing weight.

I’m not confessing this because of what I revealed a couple of weeks ago with my history of anorexia because the weight loss wasn’t caused by “Ed” in my head (my therapist used to have me try to separate my voice from Ed’s voice, short for eating disorder). I lost weight because of all of the reasons I talked about above and I’m telling you because I’ve gained back some weight and it’s good weight. I looked too slight for my medium-sized frame, with my ribs and collarbone protruding a bit much. I had such little muscle tone due to my inability to exercise at the time courtesy of multiple injuries.

Top of Arc de Triomphe July 2013

Looking a bit too slim in France

Now, with ten pounds back on me, I feel incredibly strong instead of like someone who’d get pushed over by a slight breeze. My butt is back and so is my (though still miniscule) bust. When the back of your pants are loose because you have no butt to fill it in and your bust seems concave instead of convex, it’s not a good thing. It’s time to gain weight.

Just for a visual, let’s compare some before and after pictures (sorry for the slightly creepy pic of me at the gym; it was the best I could do at the time).

Before and after weight gain

How did I gain the weight? I purposely increased my calories at the end of the summer by eating whole fat dairy and incorporating some protein shakes. I wanted to gain a little weight at this point because I knew I didn’t look good (and when your husband suggests it, you know you really should). If I was going to gain weight, I wanted it to be muscle and the best way to do that is by increasing your protein intake. I’m sure I’ve also gained weight thanks to my appetite this past winter, which has been roaring! As long as I know I’m truly hungry, I trust in my body’s signals and I eat.

Gluten free dinner 3-11-14

How do you know if you’re truly hungry and not just having a massive craving? As always, I rely on my girl, Jillian Michaels, for advice. She suggests asking yourself if you could go for something healthy. For example, “Could I go for some chicken right now? How about a salad?” If the answer is yes, then you’re hungry. If the answer is no, you only want the ice cream in the freezer, then you’re probably just having a craving.

Once I’ve established hunger vs. craving, I then try to find something healthy and filling to keep my body satisfied and nourished. My go-to this winter has been a small bowl of oatmeal with a little maple syrup, almond milk/coconut water mix, and a small serving of almonds or walnuts.

Gluten free oatmeal with maple syrup and almonds

The interesting thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gained weight? My body wants to be where it is now, because I’ve been holding steady the past two months. This is my “homeostasis weight,” the weight at which my body functions best and where my hunger is normal. Whenever I start to reduce calories, even a little, I get an intense hunger, which signals to me that my body thinks it needs to go into survival mode. It’s not good when your body thinks it’s going into survival mode, because it will hold onto fat for reserve energy and use (eat) muscle instead.

Current weight via MyFitnessPal

Holding steady, +/- 1lb. Horizontal lines in increments of 5 lbs.

In order to maintain this weight I work out 4-6 times a week at moderate to high intensity and eat pretty clean, though I always allow room for a small treat every day and for the occasional splurge at family gatherings or a night out. At this weight I can slip up from time to time and also go hard-core and I tend to hang around the same area. And I’m more than okay with that because I’m happy with how I look, and more importantly, with how I feel, which is healthy and strong! Plus, since I gained mostly muscle, my clothes still fits (you know how much I hate shopping!)!

It will be interesting to see what happens once I’m able to run more and the weather gets warmer. I’m predicting my hunger will be all over the place (sometimes running makes me famished, sometimes it dulls my appetite), and there’s a possibility for weight loss. As long as it’s not more than five pounds, and I feel strong, I’m fine with that. Ain’t no thang. 😉

Questions: Have you lost too much weight, intentionally or unintentionally? Did you gain it back? Have you found your homeostasis weight, or the weight where your body seems happiest?

Friday Favorite: Yogurt Parfaits

Hi all! How was your Christmas (for those who celebrate)?

Christmas tree 2013

Our holiday was hectic, but fun. It was wonderful to spend time with my brother, who was visiting from DC. He was entertaining, as usual.

Nick bag head

Today’s favorite is what I have for breakfast nearly every single day. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit and this breakfast can keep me full for over four hours! I usually switch to a hearty oatmeal mixture in the winter, but it hasn’t been staying with me as long as the yogurt.

Pumpkin parfait container

I make them ahead of time on “school nights” so all I have to do is grab one in the morning and go. I’ll usually make them ahead two or three times at a time, but no more than that because then the mixture can get kind of slimy.

Parfait top

What’s in the mix? I combine:

  • A handful of almonds (I have a small hand, so about 1/8 cup?)
  • A handful of uncooked oats
  • Approximately 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Approximately 1 tsp flax seeds
  • Approximately ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • A little less than ¼ cup Siggi’s or other flavored yogurt (if I don’t have any flavored, I’ll increase the amount of plain and add some agave or maple syrup)

The almonds add extra protein, the oats, chia seeds, and flax seeds add fiber, and the chia seeds and flax also add healthy sources of fat. Protein + fiber + fat = full for hours!

Parfait ingredients

As you can see from the picture above, I had some leftover canned pumpkin, so I added that and a little bit of cinnamon to make a pumpkin pie-inspired parfait.

Yum!

Yum!

Aw, all gone! :-(

Aw, all gone! 😦

Does anyone else have the same breakfast every day? What’s your favorite go-to breakfast to keep you full through the morning?

In Return to Running news, I have successfully completed Stage 3 after one attempt! I used the track again, KT tape, custom orthotics, and Sauconys. I warmed up with medicine ball rolling. I could tell my app was malfunctioning again because I actually exercised for over twenty minutes:

Run 12-22-13

I’m going to attempt Stage 4 today (which is actually the same as Stage 3). What will be different today is that I don’t have KT tape on my foot, so we’ll see how that impacts the plantar fasciitis. Everything else will remain the same. Oh, and I’ll be trying out a different app. I’ll let you know which one and how it worked.

I have to admit that I haven’t been as good as usual about icing and rolling my foot the past week, so I’m lucky my foot is feeling so good. I do keep an extra tennis ball/Foot Rubz set under my desk at work, so I’ve been trying to do that whenever I remember.

PF under desk

And of course, the dorky spreadsheet update (with mileage and date adjusted due to minor setback a couple of weeks ago):

Returntorunning 12-22

If you click in on them, the full size images of these look better. I’m still tweaking with the settings to get them to look better. 

Returntorunning stage 3

Does anyone have any exciting New Year’s plans for next week? Whole Health Husband and I will probably go low-key. After so much celebrating since Thanksgiving, something mellow sounds good to us.

Metabolic Whiplash

*Sorry for the late post. I’ve had some issues with migraines lately and looking at a computer screen definitely doesn’t help!

“Metabolic Whiplash” is a humorous term coined by my co-worker for the hard time we seem to have returning to normal eating after indulging a bit too much, usually in reference to the holidays and other special occasions. I don’t know about you, but I am still having a hard time after Thanksgiving. Even though I didn’t indulge too much, the extra sugar over a few days has done a number on me. I find my hunger has increased, as well as my sugar cravings! I completely acknowledge that I am to blame because I have answered many of the hunger cries and sugar cravings, so I keep perpetuating the problem. I plan to get control of that this week (just in time for it to come back around for Christmas!)!

Thanksgiving leftovers

Thanksgiving leftovers

How do I plan to help get control over this monster?

  1. Get enough sleep. Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep cause changes in brain activity that can lead us to feel hungrier and more intense food cravings.
  2. Continue to eat complex carbohydrates and a high amount of protein while reducing added sugar. I generally try to do this as a rule, but I have definitely been eating more sugar of late, and that could be taking the place of more nutrient-dense food. Sugar can interfere with your appetite, while complex carbs (thanks to fiber) and high protein intake can help quell it.
  3. Continuing to exercise, especially at a higher intensityVigorous exercise dulls your appetite, while moderate exercise stimulates it (this is the reason many runners can gain weight while training for long races, despite their large caloric deficit). Since I tend to get bored easily, I already incorporate a lot of HITT (high intensity interval training) during my weekly workouts.
  4. Reduce stress to the best of my ability. I am not generally one to stress much, but work has been busier lately and the holidays, as fun as they are, can add a certain amount of stress. In addition to increasing your risk of heart disease (yikes!), stress can increase hunger and contribute to belly fat.

Has anyone else been experiencing Metabolic Whiplash? Are you going to try to get control over it soon or just ride it out until the new year?