Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I've moved!

It's been quiet here, no? 

Well, I'm finally up and writing again, except now I'm doing it over here:

I hope you'll follow me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

good things: food, exercise, harr!

It was a pretty good week, I gotta say.

» I stayed within my Weight Watchers points, and it wasn't that hard. It was one of those weeks that I *wanted* fruity desserts, sauteed veggies, oatmeal for lunch some days.

» I exercised 6 days! My original goal had been to get to the gym every day last week, but that didn't happen. What did happen was: on days I didn't make it to the Y, I did exercise on my own time in the out-of-doors. One workday, I took a long walk on my lunch break (through some pavement fields ... I'm surrounded by parking lots and main thoroughfares in this office). Last Saturday, I walked our dog to the dog park, a good 30- to 40-minute haul each way. I rested on Sunday, but didn't feel at all guilty; the day off must have done me good.

» I simply felt better. Exercise and good eating do that. But it's so funny what minimal positive effort it takes to get to a place that is exponentially more satisfied and satisfying. I felt lighter, smilier, more able to continue making healthful decisions.

» I did it! I cut my own hair! I was nervous. And then I got more nervous after I started in with the scissors. You know how your hair dresser gets chunks of your hair between his index and middle finger, then glides the scissors across the ends to trim up? That's how I started in on my hair and it was taking forever. Not to mention I couldn't cut a straight line to save my life.

At some point I got a chunk of that hair, twisted it a few times and then just lopped off the end of those twisted bits. And it worked. I just kept repeating that method until I'd got my hair looking as you see it. (And really, I had to force myself to stop. It got kind of addicting.)

I'm looking forward to my next trim, and I plan to try different shaping techniques. (I have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm just sayin' that I want to figure out how to shape my hair, is all.)

And that's just half of what a great week looks like for me.

Onto the next!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

a small problem with the economy of scale: satisfaction

Firstly, as a number-lover and budgeter, I appreciate economy of scale.

It means that if I go to a warehouse store and buy bulk, I can get my oats at a lower price per ounce. If I tell the farmer at the market that I might just buy that whole crate of apples, he might just give me a little deal and reduce the price per pound.

I don't have a problem with the concept, per se.

But there's this thing built into economy of scale when it comes to buying prepared foods; and I don't think I'll be able to sum it up clearly, so I'll just tell the little story of my coffee cup.

get the short cup

I've come to really enjoy my afternoon coffee. It's one of those mental breaks that helps carry me through the last couple of hours of work before I head back home on the bus.

I keep forgetting to pack my own coffee grounds along with lunch in the mornings; my backup cup is from the Starbucks across the way (the only coffee within walking distance of my job).

When I'd set out to get my afternoon cup this past Wednesday, I had two things on my mind: I've only allotted myself $20 for "treat" purchases this month; and I'm trying to trim back my caffeine (just one more way that I'm trying to achieve a better nutrition balance).

So I headed out thinking "You know what? for the first time in a long time, I'll get the 8 oz. cup of coffee." (If you ask for a "short" at Starbucks, they discreetly [I noticed] pull an 8 oz. cup and fill it for you.)

I was kind of steeling myself for the smaller portion. Because, you know, you just get used to having a certain amount of *anything*; and getting less can feel like you're getting ... shorted.

In any case, I steeled myself for the 8 oz. cup, and I truly got ready to enjoy the smaller amount of coffee.

And then the total came to $1.57. Umm, that's only 11 cents less than the 12 oz. cup (at $1.68). "I only saved 11 cents?! It would totally be worth 11 cents to get four more ounces of coffee!!"

That's what I was thinking. With some math running in the back of my head:

» 12 oz. is 50 percent more than 8 oz.
» $1.68 is only seven percent more than $1.57!

The value is obviously with the 12 oz. cup!

UGH. But this is the problem. I didn't *want* the 12 oz. cup. And yet the skewed valuation made me feel cheated by the 8 oz. cup. It was difficult for me to feel I'd made the right decision ... because it wasn't the "smart" financial decision.

I had to convince myself that it was still the right choice. That if I wanted the 8 oz. cup, I should be ready to place a higher value on my own desire for less coffee than on my instinct to get the "better deal."

this is nothing new

Obviously, Starbucks isn't the only food retailer that prices their menu this way; and this economy has existed for generations.

I'm not going to argue that the system should change. I just wanted to take the time to recognize how my decisions are affected by the system and ask myself what I should do to stay in control as a consumer.

solution no. 1: be happy with less at a higher cost. When it comes to buying prepared foods, whether it be in restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, my focus *must* be on what I want ... me. I shouldn't even *think* about the larger size vs. the smaller size; the dinner platter vs. the salad and soup; the waffle cone vs. the cup of ice cream. If the "better" financial value lies with a selection that feeds me more calories (or caffeine) than I want to put in my body, it is NOT the better value for me.

solution no. 2: scratch-make it. Another argument to make most of our foods from scratch! (Or in the case of coffee, to brew our own.) When we home-make our meals, snacks, desserts, we buy ingredients in their whole -- and cheapest -- form. It's here that economy of scale works best for us ... we're buying things that we can store on the shelf until we need them, or use to make multiple meals throughout the week. And you know what else? When we use those ingredients, the cost to us is in direct relationship with the amount we pull off the shelf.

Some math (using made-up, easily divisible numbers):

» We pay $10 for a bag of coffee beans that'll make 10 cups of coffee. $1 per cup.
» One day, I decide I want only a half-cup of coffee. The cost? $0.50 per cup.

I like that. A lot.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

signs that i'm back on track

Yay! Good things are happening. They're tiny, but tiny is where it starts.

i know i'm doing it right when ...

» I headed to the gym for the third morning in a row. Third day's the charm. Not to mention I've been getting to sleep around 9 p.m. each night. My gym alarm is set for 4:40, and by the time it goes off I've actually gotten enough rest to spring out of bed.

The physical benefit of the sleep is one thing; and another is that when I get to bed later, I fall asleep with a sense of dread that I won't feel fully rested by the time that early alarm goes off. I think I absolutely do carry that negativity through my sleep and into the next morning, when often I'll opt to turn off the alarm and go back to bed.

» fruit dessert! When I can be happy and satiated by a bowl of cut up bananas, hazelnut butter, honey and a sprinkle of granola, I know I'm doing pretty well. No lingering emotional dissatisfaction with a "dumb healthy dessert," no giving in to compulsion. Bonus: an extra serving of fruit, a dash of protein and whole grains.

» water water water water water. And more water. I've said it before, but drinking my daily allotment of water can feel like work. When I start craving the next bottle of water, though, I'm in a good place. It's a place where my healthy decisions feel less burdensome, and where I put more value in them then I do in what would be easier.

some things I'm not doing yet

Some of my healthy habits haven't kicked in yet, but I'm not worried. I've returned to a frame of mind that says I should slowly add things as they feel right, and up to the point I still feel excited and positive about them. In the meantime, I'm not:

» pushing super hard at the gym. I'm pushing somewhat, and I'm doing new things (namely I've picked up regular weight training, but I've traded in my rigorous elliptical workouts for more slow-paced walks around our indoor track).

» tracking my numbers. I know! I'm so into numbers! You'd think it's the first thing I'd want to get back into. But I'd prefer to focus on the actual work behind those numbers, first. I have this nagging suspicion that -- while my tracking is ultimately good and will be a great tool for me in the future -- sometimes that tracking can lay a thin film of burden/judgment over everything I try to accomplish in a day. I think I may have become disheartened by some of my numbers, and I allowed that to affect my efforts.

I'll work on establishing a solid routine with food and exercise before I slowly return to collecting data.


Monday, May 2, 2011

i forgot my lunch!!

I was headed to my bus stop this morning when I realized I'd left my super-awesome-healthy lunch (veggies, homemade hummus & fruit for dessert) on the kitchen counter.


If I turned back, I'd have to drive my car to work (no thanks; I like taking the bus, which is cheaper, saves my car the wear-and-tear and is better for our little environment here).

That was challenge no. 1: realizing I'd have to go out into the consumer food world and make the right decision when my plans had suddenly changed. (Plans do me a world of good. When I make a plan, I generally stick to it. No plan? Who knows ...)

Challenge No.2: I've recently tightened up our budget. One of the financial corners I've tidied is our willy nilly spending ... the coffee here, the workday lunch there. It adds up!

But I definitely want Patrick and I to enjoy ourselves. So I'm taking cash out each month for each of us to carry around. Once it's out, the month's treats are done. My monthly allotment? Twenty bucks. And it's only May 2.

So I've got the unplanned, consumer food world ahead of me, and I don't wanna spend too much money. And of course I want to be healthy.

and then, a big duh

Whenever I think of buying my lunch, I think of going to a restaurant. My options within walking distance of work (cause, remember: I took the bus)?

Cici's Pizza (salad bar plus a few slices, which always ends up being too much bad food).

Panera (which has healthy options, but always ends up costing too much money).

And that's basically it. The other options are either clearly overpriced or unhealthy.

AND THEN DUH IT HIT ME: I have a grocery option. Within walking distance. Sure, it's through some awkward, big parking lots. But it's a place full of healthy, cheap food options!

How is this the first time I've considered it?

In any case, as immediately as that option popped had in my head, I also thought to scour the shelves for the best and cheapest lunch option, to serve as my consummate back-up plan for the days I invariably forget a lunch or we've come to the end of our in-stock healthy options at home (it happens!).

With that in mind, I trekked to the grocery looking for savory, high-protein options, plus a little something sweet. I came back with (about):

» 1/5 lb. green beans ($0.33)
» 1/3 lb. sweet potato ($0.27)
» 1/3 lb. red potato ($0.32)
» 1/3 lb. roma tomatoes ($0.77)
» 1/2 lb. banana ($0.24)
» 1/2 lb. apple ($0.72)

total: $2.72 (including tax)

As I was been filling my arms with goods, I actually thought "OK, this is gonna start getting expensive," but I definitely wanted to make sure I brought enough food back to be satisfied (hungry Lindsay is kinda ... a grump).

I'd also expected to seek out something hearty in the bakery (bread) or dairy (cheese?) departments, but I'd forgotten all about sweet potatoes! Filling, delicious, nutritious.

I plan to heat the potatoes in the microwave and see if I can find a little something fatty in the work fridge (butter or dressing) to sprinkle on top along with salt. The rest? I'll crunch on raw.

I'm kinda stoked and proud to have found a healthy (cheap!) back-up plan!

PS: Bonus? I got fresh air, the walk was long enough to feel invigorating (including a pretty steep climb on the way back to work), and I drink lots of water during the jaunt.

the week ahead

OK, let's keep this simple!

Things I wanna get done this week:

» go to the gym every morning. It's a big goal, but there's also no reason I can't do it. In fact, it'd probably do me good to have a super stable sleep/wake schedule. And who says I have to kill it every morning on the machines? The goal is just to get to the gym and do something.

» cut my hair! I had this idea recently that I could save a lot of money and learn a new skill by being my own stylist. It's kinda bold. It's kinda scary. But why the heck not?

Hey ... and that's it!

I'm definitely in Slowly Get Back on the Horse mode, so this seems like plenty.

Monday, March 14, 2011

charts & numbers: it was a slow & steady kinda week

As promised, my first weekly installment of chart-y updates. (But for a quick primer on how these charts are put together, read my "using charts & spreadsheets to track my health")

without further ado, purty numbers

To see each chart in more detail, click on it and you'll be sent to flickr, where you can get a nice zoom. And you can find my collection of tracking images in this collection.



weight (week ending 3/13)
Started Monday at: 125.8 lbs.
Ended Sunday at: 124 lbs.
Loss/Gain: 1.8 lbs. lost!

Observations: Let me first say I'm *very* happy with these numbers. And I probably would have been content with a plateau for now. But I have to observe that, as with many of these numbers: The week started out with a positive progression, but as soon as the weekend neared, the numbers retreated.

I'll let life play itself out over the next several weeks before I decide if I need to do something about that. I mean, life is full of little ups and downs ... and the weekend seems like a perfect time to indulge / slow down / let go ... *but* is that really a good cycle? Is there any reason I shouldn't aim to find happiness in a consistently healthy, active lifestyle, weekend or not?


scale numbers

scale numbers (week ending 3/13)
Started Monday at (bone mass // muscle mass // body fat // water): 3.5 // 28.1 // 36.9 // 52.9
Ended Sunday at (bone mass // muscle mass // body fat // water): 3.2 // 31 // 35.2 // 50.3

Observations: I can't help but wonder if bone and muscle mass really change that quickly. But something I've decided about this scale is that even it's not accurate, if it's at least consistenly inaccurate, it'll help me monitor Change Over Time.

And isn't this change interesting? Again, during the weekend the numbers that had been headed in a positive direction started to turn back. What I'm most annoyed with myself at is the water percentage. Because (as you'll see below) my water intake dropped to near nothing during the weekend (more on that later).

The body fat is an interesting number. I'm not sure if it's correlated with the water numbers, or my drop in exercise toward the end of the week, or my excess food intake. Most likely, it's a combination of all three.

*Most* interesting? I'm more concerned at the slips in these numbers than I am by the weekend slip in my weight. I'm kinda happy about this — I'm putting numbers in perspective and what I've come up with is that my body composition is a much better gauge of health than my weight.


weekly water intake

water (week ending 3/13)

Observations: Ugh. Water became work this week. I was *ok* during the workweek (when I can get in the habit of filling my water bottle as soon as I get in the office and keeping it full). But come the weekend, I just lost that focus.

I'm probably the least happy with these numbers as with any this week. So I'm on a mission: At least 80 oz. of water EVERY SINGLE DAY next week.


calories burned

calories burned (week ending 3/13)
Weekly goal: 2,000
Total burned: 1,670
Difference: 330 short

Observations: I'm happy overall, despite falling short of my weekly burn goal. The thing is, I've been having a little issue with shortness of breath (which I'm convinced is psychosomatic — I keep finding that it escalates in the hour or so after Patrick asks to see how my breathing's been lately). In any case, I've spent the later part of the week taking it a *little* easy just in case there's a problem.

It kinda bummed me out. Because consequently I missed my second Body Pump class. I'll get back to that next week with a vengeance (and after a few visits I plan to write up a brief summary of my experience thus far with the class).

I look forward to a week ahead of more activity. Think I'll shatter that 2,000 goal? I do ...


weekly points

weekly points (week ending 3/13)

Observations: I've been *so* good about staying within points since I got back on Weight Watchers a couple of months ago. The past couple of weeks I've left my activity points on the table (while making sure to use up every single "extra weekly" point that I'm given by default). This week, though, with the breathing issue and a general dip in energy (which I blame on a shortage of protein), I decided to use up my extra weekly and activity points.

So, see that light pink line at the very top that creeps up throughout the week? That's my activity points slowly building up, on top of my default extra points. And if you'll noticed the dark mauve-y line that eventually takes over the entire chart by Sunday: it represents me using up every extra/activity point available to me.

I feel physically good having consumed all those points (not overstuffed). We'll see if it plays out on the scale through this coming week.


heart rate zones

heart rate zones (week ending 3/13)

Observations: I tried to stay away from that power zone if I could help it. I'll admit I got a little bored on Friday (3/11) and pushed myself on the elliptical. And the bike ride Sunday (3/13), of course, pushed my heart rate up on hill climbs (and a couple of speed bursts that I did just for fun).

That big black abyss on Tuesday (3/8)? My Body Pump class, which was less action-packed than I'd expected (though no less difficult). Next time I attend, I'll sneak in 30 minutes on the elliptical first.

At any rate, I'm happy with how this chart look overall. I'd like to see more health zone eventually, but this is a good start.


overall heart rate & average speed

overall heart rate (week ending 3/13)

Observations: First, the outliers ...

The dip is my visit to Body Pump.
The uptick is my ride on the bike.

What I like to see, though? Notice my average heart rate (blue line) near the end of the week. It stays steady despite my big increase in average speed (green line, with the bike ride). That's gotta count for something.

I gotta wait for more data to say for sure that it's a good sign, but I have a feeling. ...