Monday, February 7, 2011

Fun Fact!

Here's a fitness fun fact for you:

The average human being burns 115 calories per hour simply by standing! The average human only burns 80 calories by sitting.

I've resolved to do more work about you?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Where I've Been...

I haven't posted here in a long time. I could cite a lot of reasons (work, housework, needing to sleep more than 6 hours per night, etc.), but in reality, I've simply been an observer of the online world instead of a participant in it.

I'm going to try to change that, although I plan to take baby steps. Life is simply incredibly busy right now. But some improvement is better than none, right?

One of my last posts before I fell off the face of the earth, was about how I was finally fed up with my diet; feeling overweight and generally gross. So for my first post, I wanted to give you a brief update on how all that has been going.

My friend Emily said recently that my weight loss journey would have been fun to chronicle here...but frankly, I was and am still too embarrassed of how far gone I literally gross I looked and felt.

So here's the story (in as much detail as I can comfortably provide):

Last summer when we moved, I lost a bunch of weight the weekend we moved and directly afterward. And that makes sense: I was moving boxes, hauling large pieces of furniture, eating very little for days at a time as we struggled to finish moving over the course of a single weekend (people who move in a day, I don't see how you accomplish it)... And then after the initial move was over, there was the unpacking, the organizing, the running back and forth to the hardware store for paint, tools, and other random bits needed to fix up our new nest. Overall, I lost between 10 and 15 pounds at the start of the summer. And sadly, I got used to eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I was working it all off.

But in reality, I was deluding myself. I wasn't in great shape, even before the move (as numerous pictures from last year's prom can attest -- honestly, I looked like I was pregnant). And although I lost a bit of weight during and immediately after the move, I gained it all back, plus more. By the time I was willing to admit I had a problem, my problem was a big one. This past spring, I had gone shopping with my mom and discovered that I needed to buy pants in the next size up. For some reason, that failed to get my attention, even though it obviously signaled that I had gained some weight. But then, things got even worse: by mid-summer, the pants and other clothes I bought in the spring, the ones that were a size larger than those I had been wearing? Yeah, those clothes were too tight too.

Realizing that I had a choice between buying all new clothes in a still larger size or getting a grip on my life and health was a wake-up call. I knew that I had to change my habits and my life and that I had to do it quickly and permanently. So I made some hard decisions (or, at least, decisions that were hard for me at the time):

1. I gave up drinking soda, and I did it cold turkey. For those of you who don't think soda and caffeine are addictive, let me tell you about the dark days following that decision. I had cravings non-stop. I literally dreamed about drinking Dr. Pepper out of a chilled, ice-filled glass. One night in particular the dream was so vivid that I woke up in a panic, convinced that I had relapsed and actually had been drinking the soda. It took my husband (who probably thought I had completely lost it) about 10 minutes to convince me otherwise.

2. I immediately cut back on how much and how often I was eating. Even though every health magazine and weight loss company known to man touts the effectiveness of journaling what you eat, it really is true. Forcing myself to write down everything I put in my mouth was an immediate check to my eating. Did I really want to have to look back at my weekly consumption and see that Snickers bar staring back at me? No, I didn't. In my own, admittedly amateur opinion, I'm a combination grazer and emotional eater. Being a grazer means that I'm a great person to invite to your parties: I will eat your food all evening and praise you endlessly for it. However, it also means that I continue to eat long after I'm full, just because the food is available. Being an emotional eater means that I use food as comfort: if I'm sad, I eat. Likewise, if I'm happy, angry, pensive, thoughtful, etc., I'm going to eat.

What all this means is that I had to completely re-think and re-do my eating habits.

3. For several months, I completely cut red meat out of my diet. Now, I will be the first to admit that red meat gets a bum rap for all sorts of health problems (increasing the risk of heart disease, raising cholesterol, etc.). But my purpose in giving it up had nothing to do with any of that. It was simply easier for me to stick to my diet if I gave it up. So, for example, whenever my husband wanted to barbeque hamburgers, I had a chicken breast fillet instead of a burger. Whenever he wanted hot dogs, I had a chicken sausage (Member's Mark chicken, spinach, and asiago cheese sausages from Sam's Club -- delish!). All these little changes, over time, added up to big differences in my health, my weight, how my body looked, and how I felt about myself.

And so.............without further ado.................

Here are my current results. I say current, because I'm not done yet. And, as Emily suggested, I'll be documenting the journey from here on out.

1. I have currently lost a total of 40 lbs. In practical terms, here's how that breaks down:

When I started my weight loss journey, I had a BMI that was officially in the obese category. Now, I'm on the high end of the normal range.

I have had every single pair of pants I own (minus those I've bought recently, of course) taken in. I can't even begin to explain how good it felt to feel the seamstress grab a HANDFUL of fabric and know that it was all extra fabric that was going to be cut away. I can't explain how good it felt as I drove away from the seasmstress's shop to hear my mother say from the passenger's seat, "My God, Kristen, you've lost at least 4 or 5 inches from your waist! Those pants were just huge. I can't believe they ever fit you." Not only that, but pants that I've bought since I started losing weight are getting a little baggy. Some of the women I work with have started to tease me that those need to be taken in now too.

I've dropped three dress sizes -- officially. I was always in the 10-12 range since high school. And based on American measurements, I was considered normal. I never thought I would ever again wear a dress sized in the single digits. But now, here I am.

2. I now work out at least 3-4 days each week. Even if I don't make it to the gym, I have several DVDs and at-home routines I've torn out of magazines that I can work through. I've come to the conclusion that it isn't so important that I go to the gym and work out every day for x number of hours. Instead, I try to make exercise a part of my daily life, but if I miss a day, I don't make myself crazy over it. I just start fresh the next day. Eliminating the idea that missing a workout was a "failure" was difficult for this perfectionist, but it's been so worth it in the long run. Missing one workout doesn't make me a failure, just like going to the gym every day for a week isn't going to magically get me back to the weight I was in high school.

3. I have discovered the joys of walking. I love going for walks around our neighborhood (I actually drove my car through the neighborhood this past summer to map out a 3-mile route). I walk with a playlist I made for my iPod that is composed only of songs that have at least 100 bpm (beats per minute). That's the minimum I've found that will get my heart rate up and keep it up for the duration of my walk. One afternoon I left for my walk and had gotten about a quarter mile from my house when the battery charge in my iPod went dead. That day was a turning point for me. The old me would have turned back and gone home and not walked. I would have charged the iPod and thought, "Well, maybe tomorrow..." The new me kept walking. The only songs I could remember that definitely had 100 bpm were those I had recently learned in a CPR refresher course: "Stayin' Alive" by The BeeGees and "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen. By the time I finished my 3 miles and stretched out in the driveway, I was sick of The BeeGees and Queen. But the point was, I finished. The old me would have quit. The new me had a funny story to tell at lunch the next day.

4. Today, I welcome new challenges: at my cousin and aunt's urging, I've signed up for my first half marathon. I'm really enjoying training for it, and I'm looking forward to walking it with my family.

I've changed the way I cook and the way I serve food. I felt like I had to find a happy medium between the foods my husband and I love to eat and eating healthier. So I've adapted a lot of things and changed the way I eat them. (I'll be posting some of those recipes in the days to come.)

I also enjoy food in moderation now. As I said earlier, I gave up red meat for a couple months at the beginning of my weight loss journey. When I had lost 25 lbs., my husband took me out to dinner and insisted I treat myself to a burger. I had a patty melt at Red Robin and it was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. I think my husband enjoyed listening to me rave about the burger as much as I enjoyed eating it. And that night taught me several important lessons as well. First, it's okay to eat the foods you love, even the "bad ones," so long as they are a treat and not an everyday staple of your diet. Second, something you only eat once in a while tastes so much better and is such a treat that you enjoy it even more than if you got to have it any time you wanted. And finally, despite how much I enjoyed my burger, I learned that I shouldn't reward weight loss with food. Better to treat myself to a new blouse. Still, that was probably the best patty melt I've ever had.

It's been a little over 6 months since I've had a soda, and while I do miss it occassionally, I've gotten used to drinking iced tea instead. I would argue that, especially in the summertime, there's nothing better than a tall, cold glass of iced tea. Not even a tall cold glass of Dr. Pepper.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Movin' On Up

We moved over Memorial Day weekend.

I realize this may not be earth-shattering news in your world, but it sure rocked mine on its axis.

Let me back up. Hubby and I had been on a perpetual house hunt for roughly three years. We loved our old house. Could have lived in it forever and probably died there, except for a couple minor details:

1. It had a one-car garage. And we have two cars. And Hubby was getting just a wee bit sick and tired of having to go out to my car on winter mornings to scrape the ice/frost off the windshield. (That was the trade-off for allowing him to park his car in the garage.)

2. The basement bathroom was...problematic. Anyone who knows me, knows that replacing a cracked shower stall floor became a year-long struggle in which much effort and sweat, not to mention curse words, were expended. And during which time I was confined to the upstairs bath, which DIDN'T HAVE A SHOWER. I repeat: there was no shower head in our upstairs bathtub. So I spent a year taking baths.

3. I now hate and loathe baths. Wouldn't take one if you paid me a boatload of money.

4. There were only 2 bedrooms.

Anyway, bath-time neuroses aside, there wasn't anything terribly wrong with our old house, so we took our time in looking for a new one. And finally, finally, FINALLY, we found one that is awesomely awesome. And spacious. And purty. And did I mention, awesome?

*Please note that I will try mightly to find time to take some photgraphs of the wonder that is my new kitchen ASAP.

So, we moved. And I discovered what it's like to not know where anything is. To continue leaving my shoes in a big ol' cardboard box because that's easier and more convenient than unpacking them. To not be able to cook anything for 2 straight weeks because we remodeled the kitchen immediately (all new appliances and quartz countertops). To be in the process of re-painting every single room in the house.

In short, I went from living in a house with several deficiencies, but overall, nothing majorly wrong, to living in a war zone.

But I love it anyway.

And I know that when we're finished, it will be beautiful, and we will have put our own unique stamp on the house.

But I probably won't get much cooking (or blogging) done this summer. And I wanted you to know why.

I will try, however, to post some kind of updates about the ongoing renovation projects. Hubby and I are babes in the woods when it comes to that stuff, but we're learning fast. (We have no choice.)

Perhaps my next blog post will be my adventures on our new riding lawn mower (it's candy apple red and very sleek -- I like to think of it as the sports car of yard work).

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is my next book. As a long-time fan of the Fox series Bones, I figured it was high time I read the novels on which the series was based. I think there are 9 or 10 books in the series, which gives me plenty of reading material for the rest of Spring Break, as well as the start of summer vacation. I think I'll be able to take my coffee out to the front porch later this week to read in the yard. I can't wait!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife: The Reviews are In

I have been eager to read this novel for a while. It was on my to-do list for about a year, and then it was made into a movie. Now, I have a strict rule about reading books before I watch any movie based on said book. Clearly, this item on my to-do list had reached critical mass.

And still I didn't read it. Call it procrastination, call it laziness...I call it life getting in the way. I had papers to grade, recipes to try out...dang it, people! I had to SLEEP! (We will cover my devotion to sleep in another post...or therapy).

Long story short, The Time Traveler's Wife didn't get read. And truthfully, I hadn't even purchased it.

And then, Hubby and NetFlix did an end run around me. He ordered TTW from NetFlix. And those ruthlessly efficient fools had the nerve to send us the DVD. What nerve!

Anyway, they forced my hand. I headed to Border's that very afternoon and procured a copy of the book (Buy 1, Get One 50% off, no less). And so I read it. Finally.

And, people, here's the part that I really, really, really, really hate to admit:

I didn't like it.

TTW had so much potential -- it was a love story that overcame time itself, for Pete's sake. And then there were the problems:

**Potential Spoiler Alert**

1. The science-techie component. We get that Henry is a time traveler. It should have been left at that. Not explained as a genetic disorder involving mismatched pairs of chromosomes, or something. Such a prosaic (albeit unlikely) explanation took all the magic out of the story. Having known the basic background (it's a love story about a guy who can time travel and a gal who can't) prior to reading the book, I had theorized that maybe Henry was from the future, etc., etc. The idea that someone would leave their own, seemingly advanced time, just to meet the girl they would fall in love with decades later (they first meet when Clare is a child and Henry is an adult) seemed like such a romantic concept to me. Turns out the real story was much more down-to-earth. And that much more disappointing.

2. Maybe I'm a stodgy grandma dressed up as a gal in my late-20s, but I don't like a heart-warming love story spanning space and time to use unnecessarily ugly words. And by ugly words, I mean dropping the F-bomb...for no good reason...literally 3 pages after I had thought to myself, "Okay, there's a wee bit of sex in this book, but at least they haven't said the F-word." And then, BAM! There it was.

And then there's the C-word. I rank this above the F-bomb, in terms of sheer offensive-ness. Is offensive-ness a word? Probably not. Anyway...the C-word I refer to is not as benign as crap. The C-word I refer to is...stay with me here (and keep in mind that this site is a family place)...the C-word refers to...ummm, lady parts. And that's all I'm gonna say. Move along, people, nothing to see here. I'm going to go blush and stammer to myself for a few minutes. I'll be back.

All right, I'm back. And let's never even allude to that word again after this post is over. However, in the interests of a fair review, I will explain my problem with its use in this novel. First, like the F-bomb, it has no place in this type of novel. Second, it's an offensive term (am I getting repetitive yet?) that no self-respecting woman would ever use to refer to herself in any way whatsoever.

**Definitely a spoiler alert**
3. I hate a love story with a sad, tear-jerker ending. It's just inappropriate that when two people have managed to overcome the limitations of time itself that they can't live happily ever after. It is my understanding that the movie ends differently than the book. It's the only reason I plan to actually watch it. Yes, I was that disappointed with the book -- I actually contemplated not watching the movie.

And so, as with all my recent book reviews, I have to give this one a rating. And sadly, I have to rank this one low. The lowest rating I've given so far.

It gets...** (2-stars). Sorry, TTW.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Am Scout

My favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird. I think I read for the first time when I was about 10 or 11. When I read it for the first time, I remember thinking it was funny, and that I liked Scout's spunk. And for whatever reason...reasons lost long ago in time and space (name that movie), I kept coming back to TKaM. Over the years after that, I averaged reading it about once a year -- usually in the summers, when I had a little free time. In fact, I remember my mother's old copy of the novel traveling with us nearly every summer that my family drove to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (at least 9 years).

As I mentioned above, I have my Mom to thank for giving me my first copy of TKaM. She went to my high school back when they sold students the books instead of renting them out for the year. So my Mom kept her copy from freshman English. I found it in a box in our basement one summer, along with copies of Swiss Family Robinson and The Illustrated Man. Even though I've read all those books and read them each multiple times, Mockingbird was always my favorite.

For the past 6 years, I've been an English teacher and had the pleasure of teaching this novel in my classroom. I hope that at least a few of my students see the same potential I saw in Mockingbird: humor, good morals, family values, and most of all, a darn good story. I hope at least one will find a copy of this book someday and re-read it and think: "This story is as good as Mrs. Miller always tried to tell me it was." That's the hope, anyway.

And so, due to my love of Mockingbird, I've always been interested in other aspects of the novel: it's autobiographical nature (the story is based on Harper Lee's early years in Monroeville, Alabama and many characters are loosely based on people from the neighborhood where she grew up), Harper Lee's unlikely friendship with the...difficult Truman Capote (she wrote large chunks of In Cold Blood, but received very little credit for her contributions -- she was even listed second in the dedication, behind Truman's lover), and finally, why Mockingbird was something of a one-hit-wonder -- Harper Lee never published another novel.

All of these issues, and many more besides, are addressed in Charles Shield's biography, I Am Scout. And unlike other biographies (and most nonfiction, truth be told), I was fascinated. The book is engagingly written and reads like a good book -- not your typical biography. It's informative and fun and has lots of pictures.

Oh, yes, and it's because of all these things that I Am Scout is so appealing to students. I use this book in both my junior American Lit. class (which reads Mockingbird) and in my senior Contemporary Lit. class (which reads In Cold Blood).

Overall, this is a great book and I recommend it to those who are bored with more common non-fiction offerings.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife

I'm starting this book today. I've been wanting to read it for a really long time. And I had to read it before I saw the movie. It's just not the same to read a book post-movie. I already know what's going to happen, and if the movie was disappointing, then I really lose all enthusiasm for what might be a really good book.

As a devoted bookworm, that would be a real tragedy.