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?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lose It!

Despite owning just every other Apple products, last week I finally got my first iPhone!  I bought the new SE because of the smaller size and cheaper price.  I was gonna get a new phone anyway and I couldn't be happier that I was actually getting the newest model.

After I got my phone I spent hours obsessively playing with it and installing new programs.  One of the apps I downloaded was the weight loss app Lose It! It's concept is just like every other weight loss app: you count the calories you take in by logging everything you eat, and you count the calories you use by somehow recording your exercise. I usually really hate calorie counting, I always feel that is it is the opposite of healthy eating and a normal life style. But I saw all the positive ratings users have given to this app, and I thought, hey, I need to lose weight, what do I have to lose?

And now I see why so many people like this app.  Yes it is a calorie counting app, and yes if I were to download this even 6 months ago I would probably dislike it and delete it in a day.  But several things have changed in my life: I have a Fitbit that records all my steps and exercise and then some; I have a new phone that has a front and back camera; and I just have this overall curiosity to document everything I do.  I've been using this app for 3 days and although I can't say I will stick with it forever, I did learn some very interesting things already.

First: weight loss really require discipline and patience, and persistence.  When I first started using the app I set an arbitrary goal of losing 20 pounds.  The app told me that if I do it in a way that would not strain my lifestyle or my health I could achieve my goal in September.  If I want to do it even more leisurely I could do it by November. And it sort of struck me.  I know a health way of losing weight is to lose about 1 pound per week, but I never had the capacity, until with the help of this app, to actually determine that if I want to lose 20 pounds, which I genuinely do, this is how long it's going to take. I could do it in a more extreme way but I knew that I wouldn't be able to stick with it, so I contented myself with that fact that hey, September will roll around in an eye blink and I may still carry these 20 lbs, so why now use these months to do something that I really want to do.

Second: I way over eat. This app is extremely great for logging everything you eat because it has a tremendous database of nutritional information, everything from a generic food item (caesar salad, for example), to the specific nutritional value of certain restaurant or supermarket food items.  It also has a scan function so if you eat any prepackaged food (like a can of soda or frozen dumplings), you can just scan the barcode of said item and indicate how much of it you ate (half a can, or 7 dumplings, for example).  There is still some approximation involved, especially with home cooked meal.  It can accurately tell you, say, the caloric count of a 10-oz portion of cooked salmon, but because I didn't tell it how I prepared it, the app cannot accurately determine, say, salt content or the calories of the dash of oyster sauce I splashed on my salmon.  But overall it was extremely painless to log my food, which made the experience way nicer.

But as I said, it's apparently that I have been way underestimating how much I think I eat.  It's no wonder that with all the exercise I do I'm still not getting any lighter.  I always think I didn't eat a lot on any given day, but when you punch in all the items the numbers are pretty shocking.  For the 3 days I've been using the app I was able to keep under the caloric budget the app has set for me, mostly with the help of all the running and gym classes and walking I do, but I have been scared of putting anything in my mouth because I simply don't have the budget to eat anything.  It turns out that I'm not only poor financially, but also calorically.  I really can't afford to get as many take-out as I would like, but at the same time my body just cannot afford to take in the extra calories, without getting heavier that is.  It's a fun way to think about food intake, and in some ways makes you less likely to take in that extra sip of cream-and-sugar-filled ice coffee.

It may seem like a cruel way to live, especially given how much I enjoy eating.  But financially I've always lived according to my ability.  I'm not very good a saving a lot of money for some abstract thing in the long-term future, but I also don't get into debts just because I want something and it doesn't matter whether I could afford it or not.  And bringing this mentally into the way I eat may be a good thing.  I will be more encouraged if this way of life actually produce me results.

Third, and this is the downside: I can't stop obsessively syncing my Fitbit and checking and rechecking the app.  It's back enough that I can't stop fidgeting with my new phone, it's worse to unlock it every 3 minutes to see how much my walking as offset my food intake budget.  I have not been driven crazy by this yet, but I feel that I'm getting there.

I'm not trying to pimp this app on anyone, it's just that I've been kind of all over it for the past few days that I just need to write it down somewhere.  I really hope this will help me produce some real result in weight loss.

I'm still running semi-regularly, and taking gym classes, and occasionally doing yoga.  Summer is finally approaching New England and it's time to think about running outside (I know, I still haven't, I need the time to get over the self-consciousness).  I've not been very successful with running in summers, and hopefully this year there will be some improvement.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It wasn't that bad

So I actually managed to make it to my HIIT class today (yay).  The weather was so nice, and I felt like an idiot wearing my fleece jacket and my outer jacket as I walked toward the gym.

Today's stations were a bit weird.  There were 8 stations that you do 35 seconds each, but to get to each station you must run across the indoor track (which is 1/13 of a mile all the way around anyway) so there's a bit more cardio involved.  We didn't do any additional cardio after a whole round, and we didn't have to repeat each station 2x before resting.  But we ended up doing all stations 3 times before starting the last part, and by then I was just a bit bored by all the things we had to do.

But the part I felt really good about myself is that as we stopped each time to take water break, my first thought was "that wasn't too bad". Although, after the 2nd round I kind of felt like throwing up a bit.  I still felt like the wind was knocked out of me after we were done for the day but once I survive the class I really feel like none of it was that bad.  And I always came out stronger and feeling better about myself.

I'm putting running and badminton on hold for the week or so because starting last night I took up a 4-class R.A.D. course that teaches women how to avoid and get away from a potential sexual assailant.  Last night's class was mostly lecturing, but starting tomorrow we are going to have our classes in a gym and learn about different moves and punch stuff.  I learned last night how to make a proper solid fist, and how to stand defensively and offensively.  I look forward to punch stuff tomorrow, and the final simulation class during which I get to punch a padded and suited police officer.  Not because I want to take my aggression out by punching someone, but I've realized that of all the activities I've partaken so far none of it has anything to do with defeating another person.  I mean, you play badminton against another person but you sort of know where you stand in terms of your skills and levels. I know who I can beat in a game, who is way out of my league, and who could be a good match.  But with person-to-person combat, in a potentially life or death situation, when you really have to rely on your physical strength and your skills to get yourself out of a dangerous situation, is when it really shows how much all your self-improvement activities are worth.  I still run a 12-minute mile so I'm not gonna be a world class sprinter, and I still can't run a marathon so I'm not gonna win a golden metal for that, but that's not the point here. If I ever get myself into a situation in which I really have to be quick witted and take physical action to get myself out of trouble I sure hope I don't do so by being really flexible or knowing how to swing a badminton racket.  So, yea, real life skill is what I'm trying to learn here. And maybe some of my aggression will be taken out of me, but we will see.  I said last night during class that the reason why I'm taking it is that it seemed like fun, and honestly I still fully believe that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It's all mental

Checked the date I wrote my last post.  Boy so much had happened since 3/23.  Most of it has nothing to do with exercise, but I did start my HIIT gym class again and right from the start I could feel that I was in much better shape than before. Still felt like I was going to die afterwards, which was the reason I've been sort of afraid of going to the last two classes.

Yesterday I did a short run after a week of hiatus.  I had my period and I was tired, etc., so I took the week off, but by the end of that week I got comfortable with not moving or having to go to the gym and I got lazy and complacent. My run yesterday was hurried and I didn't really set a goal.  Essentially I had about an hour before the gym closed and I wanted to squeeze a run in.  I wasn't really tired but I got really bored really quickly.  And I felt frustrated.  I think as I'm physically getting better I need to prepare mentally for each workout just as much. I need a specific goal, and a fall back goal in case it was a bad day.  I need to not be in a rush; if I had to go somewhere afterwards I need to remind myself that the next thing I'm going to do is not more important than my run.

I'm not sure where this post is going... But I just need to regroup.  I've not really done a real yoga class since... well, and I haven't played badminton since my tournament. I haven't gone to my gym class on a regular basis, and I'm busy with life and school work.  I'm still journaling but that has also become a slog, and I really need to regroup.  The weather is getting nicer and with decreasing lab work I have to do it's easier to want to stay home and work and that's not usually the most efficient way of working.  If I don't focus this can fall apart very quickly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

That extra scoop of coal

Had a really good run today, though it was a struggle getting there.  By 6pm or so today I was suddenly famished, and desperately wanted crispy chicken pad thai for dinner.  So before I left work today I sat and debated with myself for a long time as to what to do.  In the end I decided to go to the gym, run my 5K, and have thai takeout as a reward afterwards to balance out the calorie intake/output.

I was originally going to just run 25 minutes non-stop, and then do a 4-minute run/1-minute walk thing until I get to 40 minutes, which usually equates a 5K more or less.  But luckily, I caught half an episode of Castle that just happened to be playing on the treadmill I picked.  It was a season finale, during which Beckett was fighting some bad guy on the rooftop of a building that ended with the bad guy getting away and left Beckett hanging by the edge of the building and had to be saved by Ryan.  The actual fighting part happened about 20 minutes into my run, and even though I kind of knew what happened, having seen the episode before, I was nonetheless engrossed in the plot and I almost jilted when Beckett was ambushed at one point.  The episode cut to commercial right after Beckett rolled to the edge of the building and was hanging by her fingers, and I could feel my heart pumping faster because of the suspense.

And that's when it happened.  Just minutes before I started to breathe really heavily and audibly as I usually do around minute 20 and had to really put an effort and focus on my breathing and running, but as I watched the show and I got excited by the plot I found myself breathing normally again, as in, no loud, forceful breaths to artificially pump my heart faster to accommodate the demand of my body.  Watching the show seemed to give me an extra shot of adrenaline without me having to do any extra work.  The effect was not long lasting though, half way through the commercial break I found myself having to breathe really hard again.  I managed to keep running until I did 31 minutes, and ended up running the fastest mile, km, and 5K according to my Nike, earning a pre-recorded congratulatory message from Paula Radcliffe, which was kinda nice.  The data is false, by the way.  Nike has a tendency of overestimating my distance and I don't always recalibrate afterwards.  So now I have a 32-minute 5K record that's not real that I will have to beat later on.  Oh well, none of that really matters that much.

But that kind of got me thinking.  I used to be really afraid of watching anything suspenseful while running on the treadmill because I didn't want the plot of the show interfere with my breathing.  But now it seems that having my heart beat faster is actually a good thing and I might need to do it more often.  I also found that during the first 10 minutes or so I really need to concentrate on whatever I'm listening to keep myself from being bored, but this distraction is less necessary beyond the 10-minute mark, as running then requires more conscious effort.  Now it seems that around 20-minutes I need something exciting again to give my heart an extra push.  I'm not sure this is completely good for me, as people usually talk about increasing their lung capacity instead of heart rate when exercise, but before the capacity of my lungs are properly expanded I'll have to settle with faster heart pumping.

Afterwards as I was walking home I asked myself if I still wanted pad thai, and as usual my appetite gets curbed after exercising and my desire for thai food and fried chicken was not as intense as before.  But I still like the idea of very savory food and I couldn't think of any good alternative that I could make at home that would be comparable.  I set my mind on the salty ramen noodle in the end, as I was feeling for something soup-y, but I still could not abandon the idea of pad thai.  I literally was at a crossroad, having one way leading home and the other leading to the thai restaurant.  I ended up sitting on a very cold bench and played 2048 for 3 minutes before my butt got really cold and I just told myself to go home and have ramen and save the $13 I didn't really feel like spending anyway.  In the end it was a very successful day with eating, exercising, and money spending.

I've also start to take more walks.  On Monday I walked around the nearby pond twice (roughly 2 miles) because I didn't want to go running but I felt the need to exercise.  Today I walked around the pond once, since I really need the time to think about the outline of a review I needed to write and I was too full from lunch to sit in front of my desk comfortably.  I still haven't come up with a good outline but I did stop feeling bloated.  As spring hesitantly approaches there are more runners coming out.  On my walk today I saw 2 guys and a girls jogging (separately), and a group of young kids doing some sort of track workout.  I started mile 2 and all of a sudden decided that I didn't want to walk anymore but would like to go back and start making a tentative outline and assemble a reading list, so I literally stopped abruptly, turned around, and walked back to my office.  As I turned around I saw the group of young kids running their third and they must have thought that I was most weird.  Oh well.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Random Thoughts

Running Documentaries

By sheer accident I started to watch documentaries on marathons or people running marathons. I saw one on the Barkley Marathon, one on Desert Series Grand Slam, one on Eddie Izzard, and one on Dean Karnazes. One of the things I learned is that there are a lot of bad documentaries out there about running and marathons.  Some of the ones I started to watch were really boring even though they are on very interesting events like the London Marathon or some other ultra event, so you really need to wade through a whole bunch to get the gems, especially if you are fishing on Youtube.

But of the ones I did finish I was inspired by all of them.  Like how humble Dean Karnazes is.  I first read about him in Born to Run, and for some reason he came off as charismatic but arrogant so I didn't have a good impression of him.  And I think this is completely untrue.  I've acquired a few of his books now and at some point I'll get around to reading them all.

I was more amazed by Eddie Izzard I think.  At 47, this transvestite comedian who had no previous running experience decided to run a marathon a day, 6 days a week, until he goes around the entire Great Britain, for Sports Relief.  His marathons averaged about 10 hours each but he still did it and it looked absolutely miserable but entirely amazing.  He essentially did it by sheer will power and stubbornness.  I think he will have lifelong injuries from this experience, but I can't deny it was just a great feat no matter how you look at it.  I was more amazed, and sometimes angered, by how unprepared he was, and how little he seemed to know or care.  The support team he assembled was okay at best.  The trainer was annoying and not very helpful, and he spent more time in the documentary talking to a camera in sit-down interviews than he was actually by Eddie's side, and somehow he's the trainer, of someone trying to do an impossible feat with no experience.  In the middle they brought in some random nutritionist who gave bland and very crappy advice.  Eddie did the whole thing while being accompanied by his own ice cream van that went around giving out free ice cream to people for donations, and he essentially snacked on ice cream and candy bars and sometimes beer through the whole thing.  And he did the most irresponsible things like trying to do a sub-4 marathon after taking a day off for some pretty bad toe injury, or taking really long detours and refusing to listen to his therapist until he was in serious danger of having to discontinue the runs.  But it's Eddie Izzard, and he ran a marathon a day, 6 days a week, around Great Britain.  And I was inspired.

Almost Two Years

It's been almost two years since I started running.  I started late in March of 2014 for a number of reasons that just happened to occur all at the same time, and I've been running on a off for two years since. I still consider myself a beginner runner, since I don't think I make much progress at all since I started.  I didn't lose a significant amount of weight, I've only done a 5K so far and cannot run faster or longer than when I first started, and I'm not sure how much better as a person I've become since I started.  The only consolation I could give myself is that, just imagine how much more weight I would've gained if I hadn't run.  It's true that I've not gained much weight since I started so I guess that's something.

Advice? What Advice?

Over the two years I've done a lot of reading about running.  I've had a Runner's World subscription for almost as long as I had this blog, and I read books about running, watched documentaries, perused  blogs written by fellow runners, and read endless articles.  I've downloaded marathon training calendars, saved posts about post-run stretches and core-strengthening exercises, listened to talks about running gears, tech or otherwise, and managed to get a signed photo of Shalane Flanagan and had a picture taken with her.  I know a lot of stuff, and I've been reading long enough to have some of the basic stuff repeated over and over again.

And there are a number of things that on paper I theoretically should abide by.  Things like you have to do tempo runs to increase your speed.  You have to vary your workout.  That I need a certain kind of shoes given my build and my feet.

Some of the things I read were very helpful.  I'm happy with my running posture.  And with all my yoga and pilate exercise I've strengthened it somewhat and nowadays I really try to engage my core as I run and the runs do feel a bit easier and more effortlessly.  I think I'm done with getting more running shoes for a while.  I've worked out my own system while running outside (I've tried bring money to buy water on the way, holding off until I get home, and by the end of last year I got myself a hand-held running bottle with a zipper pouch).  My running time are pretty set; I always go around dinner-time.  And I've given up on trying to follow any training calendar and just run as I see fit.

I feel that a lot of the advices and guidelines and how-tos are not quite designed for me.  I have no explanation for the shoe thing.  I guess we'll find out if running with unsupported shoes will give me problems later on.  And I no longer do tempo or speed runs.  I know they are supposed to help you build your speed, but every time I push beyond my comfortable speed my plantar fasciitis comes back and it's agony.  I've done 3 5K runs this week, which is too big of a milage increase from the week before but I don't care since I'm happy with my runs.  And I think I'll leave the anaerobic exercise to the HIIT class I signed up again for next term.  Running will remain my cardio workout.

And all of a sudden last week and this week I'm able to push through my 1-mile barrier and today I ran for 30 minute straight at a constant speed of 5 mph before slowing to a walk and I've never ever done that before.  I know it doesn't sound like much and I'm not going to go any faster in a while but to me it's a substantial achievement.  And nothing had changed in the two weeks except my mindset.  I told myself that I would run for 30 minutes before stopping to a walk and 40 minutes total and that's what I did.  I almost didn't go run today but I told myself that if I wanted to order Thai food for take out I need to go run to burn off the calories.  I persuaded myself to hit the gym and somehow also managed to not get Thai food.  And I normally suck at self-motivation.

So I'm gonna try something new and just do my own thing for a while.  Nothing as crazy and stubborn as Eddie Izzard, but just things that suit me.  The heavy, slow me.  The unathletic me.  I think I need to tailor plans that I can handle, instead of things designed by professionals and for very experienced people.  And one of the things is to make small goals.  Small and tangible, and make them often as I (hopefully) reach the goals.  I told myself that I shouldn't get the Thai dish I really like until I lose 5 lbs.  I'm also going to stick with my 5K runs and increase the frequency with which I run them.  I want to work my way to one week, hopefully in April sometime, that I do one 5K a day for 7 days.  Not at race speed, but just the distance.  And I'm not going to do that right away, but I'm going to build to that point.  I want to run again on Sunday, so I will have done 4 5-K workouts this week.  Maybe next week I'll try 5, maybe I'll stick with 4 again, depending on how I feel.  And once I reach my 7-day goal I'll increase my runs to 45 minutes instead of the now-40.  Or I'll do a 4-mile target distance.  We'll see.  But it'll be slow and steady, until my body gets used to it and wants more variety.  I'm also going to work more on my mental readiness.  Like how not to over-eat, or what to do when I just don't feel like running, or how to better manage the boredom while on treadmill.  I know my body is capable of doing more but mentally I'm scared and nervous.  I don't really have a race I want to do in the near future but I'll slowly tread toward that direction.  And it's going to be good.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's official; I have a shoe problem

Unlike many other girls I was never one to be obsessed with shoes.  I remember in my freshman year I went to a shopping plaza with my friend and we went into a boutique shoe shop.  After we flipped over the price tag that told us that the pair of unappealing flats we were staring at cost $130 we both commented on how ugly the shoes were and how many books we could buy instead if we had that $130 to spare.

So I'm surprised at myself now at how obsessive I get when it comes to running shoes.

No I don't have a shoe fetish, but I do have a compulsive shopping disorder when it comes to running shoes.

We all know that finding the right pair of running shoes can be difficult.  And as I've learned recently that even when you find a model that fits you your quest will still never end since the old models go out of styles and the new models may not fit as nicely.  I've been running on and off for almost two years and so far I have 1 pair of Saucony Kinvara 5 that I run in regularly, another pair of the same model (different colors) that I stocked in a panic after I learned that when Kinvara 6 came out (now the 7 is too) they stopping selling the 5s.  I had a pair of Brooks Dyad 7 I got after a visit to the Marathon Running store in Boston, that I no longer use to run (think they were too small and way too heavy; I switched out the insoles and use them semi-regularly for daily walking).  I have a pair of Saucony Cohesion 7 which I bought on a whim on Amazon (first time buying an unfamiliar brand without trying them on first) for very cheap, and ended up running almost 60 miles in them, as I recently realized while updating my Nike+ profile. I had a pair of NB trail running shoes I originally used for casual walking but ended up putting a good double-digit milage on, before they became old and full of holes and I had to throw them out.  I replaced those with a new pair of NB (model forgotten) that I planned to use only as walking shoes but they are so comfortable I'm thinking of trying them out for running as well.

And today I received in the mail yet another pair of running shoes.  This time it was a pair of Saucony Hurricane Iso (1st gen, can't afford the $100+ newer model).  This was recommended me on my second trip to the aforementioned Marathon store, and at the time of all the choices I was given I liked those the best.  I was told that I needed more support and the Hurricane Iso would be a good fit, and Saucony as a whole is a good brand for my feet.  I did not find an affordable pair until recently, and after a 2.9 mile test run today I have mixed feelings about them.

This is also the first time I bought shoes second hand.  Granted they weren't from any individual sellers trying to get rid of some old shoes.  They were sold by Amazon Warehouse where they would resell returned or opened item.  They don't usually have second hand running shoes available all the time but I saw them earlier this week.  New shoes often go for about $90 at least and the ones I got only cost me $50.  I was very nervous about buying them because unlike sellers on eBay there were no pictures of the shoes at all, and the description made it sound like someone's walked in them for months.  But they had such a good return policy that I thought there was nothing for me to lose if I just get them and see how they look.  Around the same time I also saw a deal on the same shoes (different color) on Running Warehouse that was a good backup for me so either way I'm adding a new pair of running shoes to my collection.

The shoes looked a lot newer and in better condition than I expected.  They came in a Saucony box but no stuffings or wrappings.  The bottom of the shoes looked like they've definitely been worn and walked in, but the rest of the shoes looked absolutely brand new.  The insoles did not show much ware and the shoes didn't really smell like anyone's feet.  I think someone wore them for a few times and decided she didn't like them.  I've returned a number of pairs of shoes myself and they didn't look worse than the conditions I returned my shoes in.

So I decided to keep them and ditch my back-up plan.  There was no point spending an extra $25 to get a brand new pair when the ones I got were pretty good.  And I wore them to the gym, where I ran almost 3 miles in them.  Even at size 9.5 (my standard Saucony shoe size; I normally wear 8.5 for casual and 9 for NB running shoes) they felt a but snug, which was kind of alarming since they look huge in my hands.  And they do have much better support than the fairly support-less Kinvara I had, and heavier than Kinvara too.  As I was walking to the gym I could feel the shoes pushing at my feet in all directions in ways that were not felt with my other shoes.  The shoes were't tied right so all the way there my ankles were slipping out, and I had to adjust the laces in the locker room before I went into the fitness room.

I can't really access what really happened during my 3 mile run, but by the end my plantar fasciitis was acting in full force and I started to feel that the support may not be unnecessary.  It was refreshing and roomy when I stepped into my New Balance afterwards.

I don't know why my plantar fasciitis was acting up again but I have been feeling it for days now.  It could be that was running longer too soon, it could be the shoes.  Maybe I'm not ready for running in them yet and still need time to figure them out.  Maybe the snugness is a problem.  Maybe the assessment given to me by the running store was wrong again and the shoes are just not right for me. I think I want to test them some more before returning them becomes a real possibility.

While I have more shoes than my running habit can justify, I do have rationales for getting all of them.  The reason why I wanted another pair of (better support) shoes is that it's getting warmer out and it's almost time for outdoor running again.  And while the Kinvara are absolute a dream on the treadmill I am afraid that they would not be enough for while I pound on concrete.  I don't remember whether I ran in them outside last year, but honestly I didn't do a lot of running last summer.  I wanted something sturdier and something that could maybe handle the trails (even thought the Hurricane is not designed for trail running).  But if the Hurricanes are not helping then there would be no point in having them.  I still need to give them more time, and I can't bare having to go another half size up.  Me wearing a size 10 is just too ridiculous.

But rationales aside I still like to look at running shoes I know I will never buy.  I don't have he same attraction for other kinds of shoes, not even canvas shoes or casual athletic wears.  Just running shoes.  Sometimes it's the colors and patterns, other times it may be the cool design (like the Honka One One shoes).  Sometime I suspect I dream of putting them on and go running in procrastination of actual running.  Also I'm still trying to work out how the different shoes can suit different people.  I'm told by every one that I need shoes with support because I over-pronate a little.  And I need arch support. And because of my weight I'm usually recommend heavier shoes like the Brooks.  And I was told by some that the Kinvara it not a good fit for me because it has no support.  But I'm so happy in them.  They are so light and I don't get more injuries wearing them than I would with other shoes.  And I can't figure out why that it.  Why does logic and reasoning not work?  I got the Kinvara 5 purely based on it's good reviews.  Everyone seemed to like them.  I tried them out in the store and they fit my feet.  It took a few tries for me to realize that I needed a full size up with this model (apparently the 6 is even narrower), and I run so happy in them.  Yet I still can't ignore the logic and kept wanting to try out different things, and so far none of them have yielded promising results.  My baffles only resulted in more temptation to buy; usually it would have to take a few days for me to find out whether I'm truly comfortable in them or not so a quick trip to the shoe store does not usually do it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sometimes a meal can ruin you

I never liked diets.  They don't work and they make you think about food all the time which is the opposite of what I want to do when I'm trying to lose weight.  But those who do incorporate diets into their weight loss/ healthier living ways of life often say that if you occasionally have a meal of things that are unhealthy, that one meal won't ruin you.  In other words, it's okay if you let your indulgence take over once in a while, and you don't have to beat yourself over that.

Well that's exactly what happened to me earlier this month, and now that February is almost over I'm still paying for it.

Even since I started journaling I've been writing down my weight every morning, and since the beginning of this year, graphing it.  For the entire month of January my weight was on this constantly but very regular roller coaster, going up and down by a range of 5 lbs but always got a bit lower at the end of each cycle.  I was fascinated by this pattern and generally felt fine about it.

On Feb 7 I celebrated the Chinese New Year by making dumplings from scratch.  I mixed my own fillings, and made wraps from flour and water.  It was a laborious process that took me almost 4 hours, and I still don't know if I considered it a waste of time but I'm grateful for the process.  That morning as I weighed myself I found that my weight had been the lowest since I started recording and I was very happy.

After making the dumplings I decided to pan-fry some.  Ordinarily I would eat about 14-15 dumplings if I buy them frozen or if I make them with store-bought wraps.  But it turned out that when I made my own wrap they were consistently larger and thicker so 15 of my from-scratch dumplings turned out to be way too much.  I still managed to finish them all since I was hungry and wanted to eat the things that took me so long to make, and for the first time in months I felt the fullness I haven't had in a long time.  It didn't feel good, and it came with that familiar feeling of self-hatred.

But that was just one meal right? I over-did it on a special occasion so it shouldn't be a problem later on.  The next morning I weighed myself and found that I had gained 4 lbs from the day before and I just accepted the fact.  I just assumed that over the next week or so it would just roller coast back down and life will be fine again.

Except it didn't.  The weight plateaued up there for a few days, made a little dip, and went even higher and stayed up there for a few days more.  Now it's going back to that roller coaster pattern but the actual numbers have consistently hovered at a higher range. Overall I think I have gained a pound or two from the whole experience but nothing too bad, and I still weighed less than I did when I first started graphing on Jan 4.

It started with that one meal, which, if everything else had gone back to normal wouldn't have mattered by itself.  But with that meal came a bunch of other things.  For some reasons for days after that I managed to stuff myself some more for no good reason.  I don't even remember what I ate now or what I ate that much but I remembered the fullness and the self-hatred.  I skipped some of my gym classes and workouts.  I got takeout more; I don't know what triggered it but I went into my phase where I just didn't feel like cooking.  I was also sick for a week, during which time I oscillated between having no appetite and eating as much as I could to distract me from feeling shitty about my cold (and of course I skipped all my gym classes during that time).

So strictly speaking it was just that one meal.  And there were some stuff that happened during the weeks that followed that were unrelated to that one meal.  But I did feel the psychological impact.  The sudden and dramatic weight gain, the guilt, the feeling of self-hatred, the frustration of knowing I need to work out more to compensate and the inability to run and feel as light.  And it also opened this gate, that it was also somehow okay to go back to the way I was over-eating before.  I felt shitty, but so what, I was still functioning like I was before.  The consequence was real but at the same time... inconsequential.

Does that mean that we should beat ourselves over every bad meal decisions we have?  I don't think so.  I still believe that one meal won't make you fat.  But I would be more cautious after my next bad meal because the effect may linger for more than just that one meal, and I don't mean just the weight.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The continuing adventure of finding the right pair of running shoes

I'm still alive.  And running (somewhat). And doing other stuff like yoga and, this term, pilates (which I really like and has turned out to be really helpful).

And still looking for that perfect pair of running shoes.

Right now I'm in a happy relationship with my current pair of Saucony Kinvara 5.  They are so light and they are extremely comfy.  I've not run in them on concrete a lot so I don't know how they will fare out in the summer time (honestly when did I get them?), but on the whole they are on the more minimal and less supportive side of the shoe rainbow.  Which was one of the reasons why I waited almost a year between reading the first (rave) review about them and finally getting a pair.

In December I was in Boston for a play and on the way there I stopped by the Marathon store to see if the nice people there would have any new insight into my (current line of) perfect running shoes.  This stemmed from a panic episode I had earlier that year over the fact that Saucony no longer sells Kinvara 5s and instead only carries Kinvara 6s.  Honestly my feet really can't tell the difference between 5 and 6 from just trying the 6 on for 2 minutes in the store, but since they are new, they were more expensive and my wallet didn't like it.  And since my feet are kind of strange I didn't want to take the chance of having to go through a whole new cycle of finding another pair of good running shoes so I tried to search elsewhere for another pair of 5 that I could squirrel away.  I finally managed to find a brand new pair on eBay that was also my size and I pretty much paid the same price as my first pair, but at that point I didn't even care anymore, because instead of being leftover bargains they've become antiques and collectibles.  This is really annoying.  From a business perspective I can understand why shoe companies would want to come up with new models every season to sell to avid runners, but at the same time the changes they make are not always for the better and we runners don't really want to spend the time and effort and money to constantly worry about what shoes are the best.  And for people with weird feet like me (I can't wear any Nike shoes and my right foot is just way pickier and more prone to strange injuries), it's extra time consuming.

So i went to that store.  The store clerk lady was extremely nice and friendly and helpful and in the end we decided that the Saucony Hurricane Iso is a good fit for me.  I didn't buy them in the end because I still have two pairs of Kinvara 5s I need to run through and I didn't want to pay full price for shoes (now they are in a sweet spot of being bargain but not quite vintage state because the Hurricane Iso 2 is out, and I'm seriously debating whether I want to get a pair).  In the end I got a pair of Superfeet insoles (which I don't like anymore and are now sitting pathetically in the back corner of my gym locker).  I was shown them because I was told that the Kinvaras, which I love, has basically no support and for someone with my weight and feet I need arch support.  I was (and still) am confused because on the one hand I'm so happy in my no-support shoes and so far I have no Kinvara-related injuries, but on the other hand I'm afraid if it's a time bomb waiting to go off because of the lack of support my running shoes carry.  Right now I'm really not running that much so it's not a big problem but when it gets warmer and I'm running longer and harder on harder ground maybe it would come back and haunt me.

Plus now I don't even remember what was so great about the Hurricane Isos other than they didn't feel weird when I tried them on and ran half a block in them.

But then again, the first time I went into the Marathon store I came out with the conclusion that Brooks Dyad (7) was a good fit for me.  I have wide feet and need support and the Brooks were like a pair of tanks for my feet.  I ended up getting them online and ran in them for about a month before realizing that there was something seriously off about them.  They started to hurt my feet really bad and twice I had seriously considered getting rid of them on eBay.

I have since found out the reason and am now wearing them as my everyday walking shoes.  Shame, walking shoes should not cost this much.

First of all they were too small.  They were size 8.5, which is what I normally wear.  When I tried them on in the store I was given a pair of 8.5 and they were slightly roomy so I ignored the pervasive advice that i should buy running shoes half a size larger.  I didn't know it for a while but they were indeed too small.

Second, there was something seriously wrong about the insoles. Instead of staying put in the shoe for me to step on they like to come up with my foot and it not only created a strange sensation but was not good for my arches.  I tried to replace them once and after taking them out I found that they are the thickest, cushiest pair of insoles I've ever seen.  They are thick, cushy, and felt really comfy when you poke and squeeze them, and they look so cool that I didn't have the heart (or felt the need) to replace them.  I've recently switched them out and replaced them with the insoles that came from another pair of shoes I replaced a pair of Dr. Scholl's with.  And now I'm able to wear my Brooks comfortably (for everyday wear), mostly because I created more room in the shoe, and because I got rid of the weird vacuum insoles.

I tried to put them to good use elsewhere.  Today I tried to put them in my Kinvara 5 so they wouldn't be completely support-less but not as hard and uncomfortable as the Superfeet insoles.  It did not go well.  They took up way to much room in the shoe; they were too small so my arches were very uncomfortably supported, and it was overall just a very bad idea.  They are now sitting among a bunch of used paper towels in the garbage can of the women's locker room of the gym.  I still feel bad because they are so cushy and substantive, but apparently this is a bad thing.  Maybe I just can't have very cushy insoles.  Support, maybe, but not cushy.  So there.

I'm still constantly experimenting, and trying to put everything I own into some good use.  Right now the best option is still my Kinvara 5, without any modifications. I am financially capable of buying the Hurricane Iso and experiment them but the consideration is not money, but excess.  I have a problem when it comes to shoes. I want to buy all of them! Especially ones that should be good fit for me! But technically I really don't need any (yea yea you should rotate your shoes yada yada), and the truth is I really don't have any more room in my apartment (or my gym locker, for that matter) to have another pair of shoes (I recently threw out a pair of casual walking shoes and bought another pair of new casual walking shoes before successfully turning my Brooks into something useable so I'm already regretting that decision).  Reason simultaneously tells me that I should buy them (shoe rotation, etc) and not buy them (no they are not terribly expensive but no I also don't really need them).  Plus I'm not that even a heavy runner!  It's not like I run a 5K everyday or in the middle of training for a marathon or something.  I've just forced myself to go back to running and right now I do about 1.5 miles at a time after my gym classes and I haven't done any runs longer than that in months!  Maybe I should just stop obsessing over running shoes and just work with what I have.

My only fear is that by the time I'm ready for another pair of shoes the Hurricane Isos will become dinosaurs and the new models will suck.

Oh well, such is life.  And there's always that extra pair of Kinvara 5 that will carry me through any tough times.