Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Can't do it anymore! Crisis in my meat-less journey

This is the second day in a row that I just gave up on my promise of keeping a vegetarian diet until 10/16. It's kind of silly when you think about it, since the end date is so near. But every time I succumb to a non-vegetarian meal all I could think of is "fuck it I can't do it anymore."

And it's not even because I can't stand my freezer being full of things I can't get rid of. In fact all the meat-containing meals I've had were takeouts. None of them were particularly satisfying, except the Pho I had. I was craving specifically for Pho and that is one food you can't ask for a vegetarian substitute for.

My first breach was a chicken parm dish. I was craving chicken parm, but what I got was the saddest pieces of chickens sitting miserably on top of a pile of pasta. It was not what I had in mind and I considered that my punishment for breaking my vow.

Then there was the pho which was okay. I made the mistake of adding too much hot sauce so in the end it was kind of agonizing.

Then yesterday I ordered what I thought was going to be a burger but ended up being a kind of cheese steak thing. I was craving fries and I wanted burger. It wasn't bad and it wasn't as filling as I had feared so it was a satisfying meal.

Today I got a salad with fried chicken tender pieces. It was not a good salad and the chicken tasted like cardboard. There was no pleasure from eating that salad and I wasn't even that hungry to begin with. I think I went in to the shop thinking of getting chicken tenders but there weren't any so I settled for the salad instead.

And I think it's only fair that if I couldn't keep my promise of not eating meat for 2 months then what I end up eating would not be satisfying.

But I couldn't really figure out why I just couldn't exert that will power. I've often said that I don't need to have meat in every meal, even though I will never go full vegetarian. But now I seem to have disproved my own belief. There was no rational reason for craving a particular thing, and when I was hungry I craved vegetarian dishes as much as I did meat dishes. I think it was more an act of defiance and rebellion that I end up choosing something non-vegetarian to eat.

I've been very unhappy recently with the pressure to finish my thesis and the strong desire to procrastinate and do anything but actually write my thesis. And I haven't been exercising at all for a while now. In fact I've been sitting around so much I feel the circulation around my calves and thighs being cut off. All this sitting has also lead to a lack of energy and desire to be productive, so I've been very tired lately and sleeping a lot. When I'm actually awake all I wanted to do is read my novel and check social media sites. All this has led me to a very unhappy and lethargic state.

For some reason the solution was to introduce meat-based protein into my diet. I don't even know if it's a valid solution, but I'm just convinced that eating meat will make me happier. I don't know if it's meat itself or the act of indulgence, the break from this self-imposed discipline, this illusion of freedom, but somehow in my mind this act of breaking free would inject a surge of elation that will make me more optimistic about the labor ahead.

And at this point, I'll really try anything to keep going. I even had a fleeting thought of trying out smoking (as in a cigarette) to help me stay awake and alert (something that rose out of too much Cormoran Strike novel reading, in which the main character smokes a lot). It was a really bad idea that got crushed by my better senses but that was the kind of state of unhappiness and desperation that I've reached.

I don't even know what the point of this rambling post is. To finally admit to the world that I've failed, I guess. I didn't want to admit it to my friends. I don't think they would understand and I don't want to make them understand. Besides, what are they going to do? All this is self-imposed so there is no consequences except however you want to look at yourself. Is this all a fun silly game and oops I didn't quite make it till the end? Or is this a test of character and I failed miserably and should be seen as such?

The truth is, I don't freaking care at this point. It's too soon for retrospective examining and repentance. All I know is that I'm defrosting a piece of chicken breast from the freezer and if I feel like eating dinner tonight that's what I'll have. Everything can go to hell until I get through this week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A celebration of 3 months, and 10 days

No, not 100 days, but...

3 months since I started using the Lose It! app, and 10 days since my temporary vegetarianism.

According to my app I inputed my first weight back on May 21st. I've written about the app on this blog, but it's essentially a calorie counting app that I got on a whim after I started using my new iPhone. I've tried calorie counting apps before but didn't like them, and this time I stuck to it because I have a fitness track that measures the calories I burn, and I had since purchased a kitchen scale to accurately measure how much I eat. I'm also more active this time round, and have a more serious will to really lose weight and become healthier.

So 3 months passed since my first weight input, 95 days to be exact.  I religiously recorded my weight almost every morning, the only exceptions being when I was on vacation with friends and when I was at home for vacation and we packed our scale so I couldn't weigh myself. I always weigh myself in the mornings, even though I would sometimes weigh myself again throughout the day, after a particularly satisfying workout or a large meal, just to see how my weight was affected.

And what I had done 3 months ago on a whim turned out to be one of the biggest life changing things I've done. For the past 95 days I religiously inputed everything I ate (almost everything, I occasionally skipped the cream I put in my coffee or a late-night snack), and I've been consistently losing about one pound per week (even though my goal is 1.5 pounds/week), and as of this week I've lost a total of 13 pounds! Despite struggling through two weight plateaus, the last one I just overcame about a day ago, my weight loss has been consistent and the quality of my life has not ben affected dramatically.

The change is visible. My stomach and belly have gotten flatter. My jeans are now looser in the waist and I got half of my wardrobes back. There are few T-shirts that I had not been able to wear I can now put on with much ease and actually leave my house with without feeling absolutely disgusted with myself.

The weight loss has not made me a faster runner, however. In fact, I now run at a much slower speed because of my plantar fasciitis, but I can run now for 25 or 30 minutes straight without the need to stop for a walking break. I don't know if it's because of the speed or the light load, it's likely a combination of both. I did improve in my yoga classes. The other day I did my first half-wheel pose since I was about 12 years old. It only lasted a few seconds because my wrists were not used to the pose but I felt so strong and accomplished.

It's kind of strange, however, that not many people besides myself have noticed my weight loss. Except one friend, but I had not seen him in almost two months, and I was wearing a particularly flattering shirt that day. Other than that no one has commented. Some pointed out a shirt I wore for the first time in a long time and I tell them that I was able to put it on again after losing so many pounds. They were happy for me but they don't look terribly convinced. I can only assume that because we see each other fairly often and my weight loss has not really affect anywhere else on my body besides my stomach area, that the change is not as noticeable. Although it's equally strange that I see myself in the mirror every day and I can tell the difference. Anywhoo, given the weight I started with, 13 pounds really do not make that big of a difference. But I have no intention of stopping here and I'm on tract to lose more. My goal is to work at this pace for the next year or so (another 52 weeks, another 50 pound or so), before I move on to a more fitness-oriented goal and not have my plans be dictated by the numbers on the scale. Maybe by then I would actually work on a realistic goal of doing a half marathon or a full marathon and finish at a respectable time. By then I should also be settled down enough that I can consider getting yoga instructor certified.

In other news, today also marks day 10 of my journey of being a temporary vegetarian. While I did have to make conscious decision to not eat something, I did not have a very hard time keeping to my new life style. I began cooking again last Wednesday and it definitely made things a lot easier. Not only could I now make things that I actually like, instead of settling on an item after weeding out the meat-containing ones, I could also control the calorie count. Originally I planned a "rest" day once a week to satisfy any craving and to finish my reservoir of meat in my freezer, but so far I feel like keeping the streak going and I think I'll just do it for as long as I can. The freezer-full of meat can wait. If I don't get to them until October they should still be fine in there. Recently I've been craving for things like fried chicken or other chicken dishes and I get these temporary frustrated feeling about not being able to eat them, but these feelings go away quickly and they never turn into actions. I've involuntarily put myself on a diet since I fell into a lazy streak. I haven't been active since last Tuesday and barely burning 1600 Calories a day, so therefore I really couldn't eat a lot for fear of gaining any weight. With my daily calorie budget of less than 1500 I've been hungry a lot, and it's a terrible feeling. Not terrible enough for me to get out of my apartment and walk around or go for a run, but terrible still. In some ways this was needed since it kind of helped me to get unstuck from my plateau, but I hate this feeling and I think it's also affected my mood and my energy level.

All in all it's been a very good and successful 3 months. There were ups and downs. There were struggles and frustrations. I've often complained to myself in my diary and in thought, but now when I look back I don't really hold any of those memories anymore. Even that first week of vegetarian struggle I wrote about didn't feel like that big of a deal anymore, mostly because none of the bad decisions I made transpired to any physical consequences. I have nothing but amazement and happiness. I can't imagine going back to the old self that's 13 pounds heavier, and I'm going to do everything I can to not go back. I'm looking forward to each new day, knowing that I now have a plan that works and if I just stick to it I will slowly but steadily reach my goal in the end.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Struggles of an eating-out vegetarian: Day 1

Disclaimer: before I start I have to confess a few things.
1) No I have not decided to adopt a permanent vegetarian life style.
2) There must be so much stuff out there about vegetarianism and I have not really explored any one of them, but will probably do so in the coming weeks.
3) Emphasis on "eating-out".

Unless things change dramatically and irreversibly to my life in the future I will never become a vegetarian or vegan or what have you. I'm an omnivore like human beings should be and I will stick to that. I have nothing against people who choose to be vegetarians or vegans, in fact I have great respect for them because it's not easy to adopt to these lifestyles and most of these people that I know or have read about just seem a lot happier and at peace with themselves and with the world. I envy that. But I also firmly believe that one should not cut out major food groups from their diet (if they can), under any intellectual or moral circumstances.

That is also not to say that I have to have meat in every one of my meals. I sometimes go for a week or more without eating meat if I'm too lazy to cook dishes that include meat. I would be bothered if there are no vegetables or greens in my meals, but never the other way round. And yes I do worry about the environment, and no you will never catch me killing my own dinner. But still, we didn't evolve to the species we are from just eating berries and leaves and I will not apologize for eating other members of our kingdom (the animal kingdom, that is).

Anyhoo, despite all that, for the next several weeks, until 10/16 to be exact, I will try to adopt a vegetarian diet. The reasons are complicated, personal, and to a degree absurd. But it was a promise I made and I intend on keeping it the best I can. We are allowed to eat meat if circumstances dictate it so, and we'll just make up the days later on. My current plan is to break my vegetarian vow every Sunday (an arbitrary pick really, no significance), for the sole reason that I have chicken breast, shaved steak, shrimp, salmon, and pork buns taking space in my freezer and I really need to gradually finish them, preferably before I move out (I'm graduating in late October, you see).

Today (Saturday) was Day 1. I'm already deciding that I will stay vegetarian on Sunday because it will be unlikely that I cook at all on Day 2. Despite being here in New England, this month has been unbearably warm and now humid. That combined with the stress of writing my thesis has really left me no desire to worry about cooking. I've resigned to the fact that I will spend more money than I wish this month on take-out food, and it, along with coffee, will be an expense I'm willing to pay.

Immediately I realize the problems. I almost never do vegetarian takeouts. Whenever I eat out I always get meat-based dishes because paying for other people to cook you vegetables is almost just like being robbed. It's way overpriced! Why would you pay 10 bucks for a meat-less salad, or a plate of stir-fried vegetables, when the raw ingredients are fraction the price and the skill that's required to prepare the dish is virtually none? I can't stand the injustice, and therefore I've always ordered stuff with meat in the dishes.

For lunch today I thought I would do asian food, and I went to this Japanese-Korean restaurant thinking I will get some sort of Korean stew with rice (because the calories in noodles are just outrageous). As I was sitting in the restaurant staring at the menu I realized that it was a very bad place to be if you are vegetarian. The limited options are just depressing. There was virtually no vegetarian sushi options (as it should really), and all the hot dishes, Japanese or Korean, have some sort of seafood or pork or beef in them. I did end up getting stew but it wasn't what I had in mind (what I had in minded, it turned out, had seafood in it). So one meal down without breaking my promise and it was a close one. I won't be visiting that restaurant any time soon and that's just a shame.

For dinner I got a salad. Overpriced perhaps but I needed the fresh vegetables to offset the carb-heavy cornbread and fat-loaded string cheese I brought with me as studying snacks. That was another problem I sensed. Not all vegetarian diets are healthy. It's so easy to overeat on the carbs, especially when you don't have the protein-rich meat to keep you full. I will have to be careful to consume more plant-based proteins or this might ironically wreck my weight losing plans.

So one day down and however many more to go. I hope the weather will improve so that it'll at least be cool and not humid enough to cook at home. I really had to think more than I liked to figure out what I wanted to eat and where I could get it in town, and while I like food I just hate obsessing over it in this way. Tomorrow (or later today, rather) will be another take-out day, as I'm trying to finish up a draft of my chapter to be submitted to my adviser and it will be again humid and hot and disgusting and I will want to run away from my apartment as fast as possible. I don't know what I'll buy yet. Given my limited calorie budget it's not easy to find restaurant options that are healthy in all sense of the word.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ephemeral fitness trackers

Around last Thanksgiving I bought a Fitbit. I was semi-hoping for a Black Friday deal but ended up getting a Fitbit Charge on eBay, which beat out all other deals at the time. It was brand new and it worked really well. I have been using it ever since, wearing it almost every day and night, and got a really good idea of how much I walk, sleep, and workout.

Wearing a Fitbit didn't dramatically change my life. It was mostly just a device that recorded everything I did. I did modify my behavior a bit since wearing it but nothing drastic enough that all of a sudden I'm losing weight or sleeping better. But having a Fitbit, and knowing, on a ballpark, how many calories I burn was crucial to my later successful use of the Lose It! app to lose weight.

And to my shock and heartbreak, I found out this week that my Fitbit is falling apart.

Okay, maybe "falling apart" is too strong a term. But I saw with horror last week that the covering on the side of the band (right beneath the plastic display screen) is peeling off and bulging out as a result.  It was ugly and spreading, and since I'm on vacation I can't just go online and get a replacement cover.

Which I learned, over the course of a few google searches, you can't actually do. I thought that because there are 4 tiny screws on the back of the band that I could just simply buy a new strap, unscrew the tracking part and stick it into a new strap.  But apparently you can't do that with a Charge. After reading a few forum posts I realized that in order to fix my problem I must get a new, replacement tracker all together. Since I had a warranty and it's still within a year of my original purchase I would easily be qualified for a new tracker.

Which I did. After a brief phone call, during which the operator person was super helpful and efficient, I now have a replacement track on the way.  Hopefully by the time I get home it will be waiting for me by the door.

But it didn't really erase the underlying worry I have for Fitbit. I asked the guy what if in another 8 months the same thing happens again with my new tracker.  My warranty will have run out by then and I'll have the same problem. He didn't give me any specifics but said they will try their best to help and one of the things they may do is to give me a discount when I buy a new tracker.

Which left me here wondering several things. I was encouraged to bring the old tracker back to a BestBuy or Target for recycling, and I wondered what they are going to do with it. Ideally they would strip the tracker from the broken band and repackage it as a refurbished item or something. But if they just bury it in a landfill somewhere I would be really upset. Also, the Fitbit is designed for the person to wear it round the clock in order to better track of everything. It seems that the hardware is perfectly capable of holding its end, and it's ironic that the part that's the weak link (since many people seem to have the same problem I do) is the strap. Maybe the issue is addressed in their newer iterations and I'm just the cheapo who could only afford the older version.

It also saddens me to realize that my Fitbit will not last forever. Not just forever, but past one calendar year. As with any electronic device I don't expect my Fitbit to last long enough to become an heirloom but I thought with the amount of money they charge for the device they should last as long as the technology would allow. And as with any watches if the strap gets old and falls apart from overuse you could just get a new set and stick it on. But no, if you strap breaks you got to replace your whole watch. I don't get the logic in that. Even if it's an older model Fitbit it seems like a weird design flaw.

Now I have to mentally prepare, whenever I get a new electronic device, that whatever I'm paying upwards of 100 or 200 dollars for will only be an annual fee for using this device, instead of a solid investment toward my health or fitness. And as with everything else disposable, this is so bullshit. We can no longer own anything anymore. Everything is out there in some mysterious cloud and we shell out money just to have access to it, like renting. I know nothing lasts forever but still, it's very upsetting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Random Thoughts

Kickboxing (aerobics)

So for the summer term I've decided to take a kickboxing class. Except I've learned, from telling this to multiple people, that there's a distinct difference between kickboxing and kickboxing aerobics. As in, when I say kickboxing, people will automatically think of big gloves, target sand bags, and some sort of anger release. But the funny thing is, when I think about kickboxing I just think of rhythmic movements with kicking and punch motions while loud music is playing in the background, which, luckily, is what the class I signed up for entailed (thus the name of the course is kickboxing aerobics, I guess).

I had my first class on Monday. There were 5 people but the instructor said there will be more people in the coming weeks. I knew one of the girls so that was fun. The music was indeed very loud, too loud, in fact, that we couldn't really hear the instructor half of the time. Not that she was doing a very good job instructing to begin with.  I was tempted to drop the class because of that. She was a real nice girl, but she wasn't really good at explaining things, and insisted to do everything with her back to us to better demonstrate the moves, which makes sense except that it just made it harder for her to be heard. And she doesn't really do a lot of prompting before we change moves, so every time we had to do something different she would just do it and we would awkwardly follow.

But in the end I decided to stay. Mostly because it's Wednesday and my legs and back are still hurting like crazy. We did so many push ups, jump squats, and kicks, that my muscles were aching almost right after class ended.  It was alarming at first, because while I wasn't worried about my leg muscles or glutes, my back was hurting very intensely that I had to stop by the indoor track area to do more stretching.  I now realize that I didn't really hurt my back in a bad way, but my back muscles (quadratus lumborum and latissimus dorsi, to be exact) just got a very intense workout. I guess when we were kicking (<100 total) I didn't use my ab muscles enough and relied mostly on my back to get my torso staying straight and stable.

So I've decided to take the class this term.  Not because I love it, but because it's making me doing things I've never done before and doing it harder than I would on my own.

Weight loss

Since using the Lose It! app I've lost about 7 lbs. Which is really good since I know the weight I lost is real. My stomach area is slimmer, my pants are looser, and I could wear some of the T-shirts that were previously too tight for me, which is nice since I had to throw out almost half a dozen T-shirts in the past two weeks because they are falling apart. Now that I can wear some of the smaller shirts again it's like I got a new wardrobe without having to spend any money. And for the 7 lbs I lost I kept it off; I've maintained the same weight for almost 2 weeks.  Which brings me to the more frustrating part: I've not lost any weight for almost 2 weeks.  The whole weight loss plan was sort of put on hold when I got my period and was craving meat and chocolate like crazy, and was so tired that I just couldn't go to the gym.  When I felt better the lazy streak continued and while I didn't really gain any weight because of it, I'm having trouble losing more as well.  I've realized that I just cannot maintain a 1550 daily calorie intake that the app is making me do.  I've been able to keep under the limit before because I was working out almost every day, and when I wasn't I was walking a lot to compensate for it. Now that I stopped moving so much I keep going over my calorie limit and it's gotten to a point where I just don't care anymore. Going home for the holidays next week so things will be wacky again but I swear when I come back I have to bring my daily habit to weight loss mode again.


Recently I read a review on the Sketcher Ultra 3 GoTrail shoes, which is one of those extra cushioned  types like the Hoka One One. Except it was a raving review written by someone who usually wear more minimalistic shoes.  And the review was so positive that it made me want to get a pair right away. Not that I need a new pair of running shoes, or new shoes in general, but I just had to.  And although I didn't end up buying that exact model (don't really need trail shoes), I got a similar pair that was designed for road running, and it was less than $50 on amazon, which was the real reason why I got it. I bought the Saucony Kinvara 5 because of the reviewer and they are my favorite shoes ever at the moment, so I can't help but trust the guy. The shoes are supposed to arrive today but I'm not so confident. I will have to throw away a pair just so my shoe collection doesn't get too big. But we'll make it work.  Hey, maybe I won't like them and will return them and this episode of my running shoes obsession would never happen.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Time to get creative

I've decided that I will not run for the next week.

For the past 22 days I've been consistently and almost religiously using the Lose It! app to log all my caloric intakes, and with the help of my Fitbit, track how many calories I burn. The result has been spectacular: I lost almost 7 pounds in the past 2 weeks, and if I keep watching my intake and make sure I at least walk around a bit every day it would not fluctuate that wildly (like my weight does in the past).

Not that I've reached my goal weight yet, not by a long shot.  I'm projected to lose a total of 20 pounds by the end of August, and after that I plan to lose another 20 pounds or so before focusing more on muscle building than a number weight.  But that's way too far ahead and in the main time I need to focus on the smaller goals.

Because of the way Fitbit tracts my activities the most effective way of burning calories that I can mostly closely account for is by running.  So for the past 3 weeks I've been running almost daily, each time for about 2 miles, or at least 30 minutes.  But despite my getting stronger with my HIIT classes, and that I've recently been more courageous with experimenting with dumbbells and abs exercise, all this running has taken its toll.  My plantar fasciitis has come back with full force, not quite crippling me but I can now feel it constantly when I'm just walking. My right ankle also feels funny; I now often get this sharp acute pain surging on the inside of my ankle, and I hope it will not develop into a stress fracture or something.  I may also be developing shin splint on my left leg, which is never a good sign.

So I took a day off yesterday from gym (didn't gain or lose any weight when I measured this morning), and now I'm rethinking about my exercise regimen.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I have to stop running every day.  I tried doing elliptical the other day and for some reason it was way harder than I thought and not quite as comfortable.  Also it didn't really do anything to relieve the stress I think I'm putting on my feet and ankle.  I've since signed up for a kickboxing class for the summer to spice up my aerobics, but the class doesn't really start until the end of June.  I think in the main time I will try the exercise bikes in the gym.  I did take a spinning class last summer so I'm no longer a stranger to these machines. I will probably get a more localized workout to some of my leg muscles that way but I wouldn't be surprised if I don't use these muscles when I run. I've also been more rigorous with my post-aerobic exercises.  Previously I just stretched after running and sometimes add a few abs moves like doing a quick minute of plank or some crunches.  But now I'm trying to work in at least 5 minutes of Abs workout, doing a certain number of reps for any moves I can tolerate (the leg raises, for example, that works on you lower ab, I've since scratched because it hurts my back more than working on my lower abs). Hopefully whether my Fitbit will record my effort or not I'll still be burning calories and every time I get on the scale my weight will keep dropping.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Barely Walking

So I went to the gym again today, on a sort-of empty stomach.  I had to cut my usual lunch of the entire plate of drunken noodle with chicken in half after finding out how many calories there are in a cup of drunken noodles, and I was sort of fine until about 5pm when I had to leave for the gym.  But I didn't eat anything else, and I wasn't really famished so all was well.

I usually start my run at 5mph for about a mile before doing something else, and that's what I did today.  But as I was doing that, I felt like I wasn't really running.  I was more like... speed walking.  And I didn't feel tired like I usually would after about 7 minutes.  I barely had to deepen my breath after I finished the first mile.

And although this was kind of cool, I wasn't really sure what kind of improvement this would count as.  Muscle strength? Stamina? Or just finding a new and better technique to run? As I increased the speed for the next mile I was out of breath for the fastest minute or so, and stopped when I got to about a 5K.

And I felt really good.  Sweaty and slightly out of breath, sure, but my foot wasn't hurting and I didn't stress my body too much with it.  It was just strange.  I mean, it doesn't mean that I'm all of a sudden a very fast walker, and if I walk like the way I did on the treadmill I would look very silly, but I really don't know what I did differently of where I have improved to achieve that.  Or did I just learn to take shorter steps and not bounce as much?  I don't know.

Today the gym was relatively empty.  I went around the same time as I did on Tuesday, but on Tuesday the gym was packed and there was no unoccupied treadmill at all.  I think finals week is approaching for the undergrads and that might explain it a little bit.  Also it was so warm and sunny out I passed at least half a dozen runners and a equal number of cyclists, so maybe everyone was working out outside.  Either way it was very nice not to feel crowded and claustrophobic. And the fitness room is air conditioned, so what's not to like?

I really think all of my strength improvement is due to my HIIT class, but the class will likely not be offered in the summer, and plus I've gotten to the point in the term where I just become very afraid of the class.  Afraid of the tiredness and out-of-breath-ness, even though I know it's good for me in the end.  I've purchased an arm band for my iPhone and wireless sports headphones so I could maybe do some weight lifting or something in the future on my own without having to worry about where to put my phone if I will have to do with music/podcast-less.  I will never achieve the level of fitness as i do in my class, but any muscle building is better than none at all right?