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. ...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

recipe: spent-grain bread (finally!)

We've been making this bread for a month now, and I can safely say it's the best bread we've made. Also? It makes me want to explore more breads (like, "if we can do this, just think what else we might be able to bake!")

golden delicious

We were lucky to come across a reliable recipe (with great notes) on our first try. It's "Great Bread from Spent Grains" on Brew Your Own.

If you want volume measurements and basic directions/notes for the recipe, see the original. I've converted the volume measurements to weight for our use at home because I find that makes it easier to prep batches. I also like how using weight measurements for everything exposes the ratio behind the recipe ... SCIENCE.

And the notes I've included are just little tidbits of information based on our experience with the bread.

Don't have access to spent grains? The original recipe is built on a simple "pain ordinaire," the directions for which are listed out in great detail.

how we make spent-grain 'pain ordinaire'

ingredients (by weight)

14. g. yeast (we use Fleismanns' rapid rise)
16 oz. water
7 oz. fresh spent grains (wet)
1 lb. 14 oz. flour
18 g. salt

photos & notes {see the gallery on flickr}

I have many bread-making friends, so if any of you see something that I could improve, please share!

spent grains
spent grains
Reserved after the mash, this is the liquid/grain balance that seems to work best so far. We've also used grains that have been drained of as much liquid as possible (no liquid even seemed collected at the bottom of the container we had them in), but the bread baked up more ... cakey? The crumb wasn't as chewy, nor as hole-y.

yeast & water
yeast & water
When Patrick took up the bread-making duties, he started using much warmer water than I had been using, and with good results. With his experience with beer-making (and its reliance on well-tended yeast), he thought the warmer temperatures would bring the yeast to life. He seems to have been right, as our doughs rise more nicely, now.

post-mix, pre-hand-knead
post-mix, pre-hand-knead
The recipe calls for adding most of the bread flour during its initial mix, and kneading in the remaining flour to achieve the desired effect. (On our good bread days, we end up with a soft-to-the-touch, firm, satiny ball.) Here, the dough has just come out of the mixer and we'll generously flour our hands and that mound of dough in addition to what we sprinkled on the counter.

post-knead, pre-rise
post-knead, pre-rise
Satiny, soft and firm. Rounded!

This dough's been in the bucket for an hour and a half, covered in a damp rag and near our oven/stove, which had recently been used to make lunch (we usually time the rise with a recently heated oven, to help slightly increase the ambient temperature in our cool-ish apartment). We'll "punch it down" for its secondary rise (about 45 minutes).

dough, dumped
dough, dumped
You can maybe tell just how delicate and soft this dough has become in its first and second rise. We're about to divide it for another rise ...

divided, roughly
dough, divided
We'll drape the dough with the same damp rag we used to blanket the rising container. Then it's time to let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

shaped, pre-rise
shaped, pre-risen
We'll drape this dough *again* with the damp rag, and set it aside for its final rise (about 45 minutes). In the meantime, we preheat our oven to 425F. We allow it -- and a baking stone we keep on the middle rack in the oven -- to heat for the full 45-minute rise. ALSO: On the bottom rack of the oven is a baking sheet that we'll dump ice cubes onto as soon as we set the loaves to bake ... steam trick!

A photo I didn't get: After the rise, just before we set the pan on the baking stone, we score these loaves with a quarter-inch-deep "X."

temperature, achieved
temperature, achieved
The loaves bake between 30 and 40 minutes, but we use a thermometer to decide when to pull them out of the oven. As soon as the middle of the larger loaf (invariably, one of the loaves ends up bigger than the other) reaches 200F, we pull the bread from the oven.

pulled loaves!
pulled loaves
Aren't they beautiful?

thumping for doneness
thumping for doneness
A secondary test we do: the thump. Here, Patrick taps the bottom of a loaf, looking for a "hollow" sound.

golden delicious
golden delicious
We set the loaves to cool for a minimum of ten minutes, which is a truly difficult wait (and minimal; I have a feeling a longer cooling time would be even better to allow the moisture in the loaves to disperse properly as they lose heat).

crust & crumb
crust & crumb
I'm a newbie, but I think those holes are a good sign. I'd love if the crust were shattering, but that's an achievement of experience and we have very little of that.

bread & butter
bread & butter
Best way to enjoy it, if you ask me.

next up ...

We've made beer ice cream using homemade syrup (and that was made using mash liquid, pulled at the same time as these spent grains). I'll get to that in the next couple of weeks.

Excited?! ...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

some things that inspire me (links)

I'mma see about this link-love-blogging thing.

I like it when bloggers *I* like tell me what *they're* liking lately. And lord knows I bookmark enough interesting articles to keep me reading for a solid weekend.

Without further ado, just a very few of the stories/recipes/photos that caught my eye this week.

link lovin'

Shutterbean's "Fully Loaded Granola Bar"
I'm still experimenting with that recipe I stumbled upon in our ATK cookbook, but I need some outside inspiration for messing with the sugar/honey ratio and flavors. When I saw these, I knew I'd wanna use them for just that ... {Photo from Shutterbean}

Oh She Glows' "Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese: Two Ways"
Patrick just made us a delicious butternut squash soup. The flavor was perfect, and I can imagine it works exceptionally with a pasta dish. Not to mention it's a way to get a m&c fix without the dairy (I always find myself better for limiting it in my diet). {Photo from Oh She Glows}

Working Out & Eating In's "Food Diary 2"
1: I like a photo food diary. 2: Overnight oats! I haven't tried them yet, but they sound chewy and filling and delicious. And do you see that kale pizza with sweet potato crust? The more I eat healthfully, the more enticing these healthy versions of favorites sound ... {Photo from Working Out & Eating In}

Sifting Through's "Pretty Tea Cups"
This is my very best friend Melizza, who moved across the ocean with her husband for an adventurous several years in London. We were roommates in the way back. I don't know that if you'd told me she'd one day collect tea cups, I'd have quite believed it. Except that it's perfectly Melizza. Because she has always been a hostess, and always given the utmost care to those she hosts. Tea cups are her. She is tea cups. {Photo from Sifting Through}

A Wolf's Garden's "Hardscaping Turns Soft"
That's my brother, who's got one of those minds that absorbs absolutely everything it's exposed to (I'll write soon about the great information he shared with me regarding heart rates). Here he documents the work he's put into the flora all around his house. One of my favorite writeups so far is this one detailing the landscaping he built, and how it changed over time. {Photo from A Wolf's Garden}

Thursday, March 10, 2011

praise the lord & pass the good nutrition ... my jeans fit better!

Just this morning I finally noticed my jeans are hanging a little looser. Not much. Just enough for me to notice. But also just enough for me to open up my brain to The Future Lindsay.

I was sucking in ... maybe a little.

I've been very happy to take on good habits for their own sake (and proud of myself, too). I have this idea that I want to set a preliminary weight goal of 115 (I'm about 124 now). I know I want to be stronger and stand up straighter.

But those goals have felt far off and detached. All the work I've been doing for nearly two months has made me feel *good*, but in only barely-discernible ways.

Which has suggested to me a homeostasis. Healthfulness but little change otherwise.

And then Boom. Bam. Jeans are loose! Inside my brain, something like this is happening "I could be trim! Lean! Maybe I'll wear bikinis, like, ALL summer. I'll have muscles. Other people will be able to see them. No tummy roll? REALLY? Maybe! Just maybe!"

I'm not on some get-skinny rampage now. It's just that I suddenly feel like all this healthfulness might also lead to a Lindsay I've never seen before. (I have weighed as little as 107 lbs., but I didn't get their with exercise. I was still flabby, with little muscle [which I didn't think was possible at 107? Apparently it is?].)

This Lindsay might look like an ... athlete? Like one of those cute yoga ladies? A gymnast (I *do* have trunk-y thighs)? I actually don't know. But I am totally stoked to find out.

And all because my jeans are a tiny bit loose! Who knew?

using charts & spreadsheets to track my health

Who doesn't know I love spreadsheets? NOBODY. That's who.

I've long created, used, abandoned and recreated Google spreadsheets to track my activity and food intake, but I've only recently (finally!) understood how to use Google's charting options to visualize the data. Which inspired me to go beyond the simple calories-in/calories-out tracking and start exploring my: heart rate, water intake, weight change and muscle/bone/fat/water percentages that I can borrow from our Homedics bathroom scale.

So how's about I just dive in and show you what I see everyday?

the charts

For the most part the charts I've included below display one week's worth of data (for the span between Feb. 28 and March 6).


the mothership

health tracker mothership

Here are the raw numbers, which I fill in every day. I have some ideas for more data to add (a count of visits to the gym per week, separate tracking for bike rides, inch measurements to accompany my weight numbers, etc.), but for now this is giving me a lot of great analysis. A note: You'll notice I leave the heart rate/speed numbers blank on days I don't exercise, but I take the time to mark "0" calories on those days. When you see the visualization of those numbers later on I think you'll see why.


daily water intake

daily water

Water! Simple and straightforward. I'm still trying to figure out the best volume of water to keep me properly hydrated every day. I've set a goal of 81 oz. for now (my Klean Kanteen is a 27 oz. bottle and to keep things simple, I aim to drink three of those a day, which brings me to 81 oz.).

I still feel thirsty, and wake up thirsty, so I don't know if I'm overdoing it, need more water, or need to examine something else in my diet. If I come to find that I need to increase or decrease my daily water goal, I'll adjust my chart accordingly.


weekly points consumed

daily & weekly points consumed

I already track my Weight Watchers points through my login, but I thought I may find some benefit one day (for some reason I have yet to determine) of having these numbers readily available in my charts.

Maybe one day I'll get curious about how my weekly activity performance compares with my overall food intake through that week? Or if my heart rate during exercise seems to spike on days I've consumed more points (or fewer)?

I really don't know yet, but the numbers are there to be crunched ...


daily & weekly calories burned

calories burned

I use this chart to keep an eye on my weekly goal for exertion: I'd love to burn 2,000 calories each week. You can see that in the week displayed here, I fell short of that goal.

(And regarding that "0" calories burned I mark on days I don't go to the gym: You can see how that "0" displays on my chart.)


heart rate zones per workout

heart rate zones per workout

I need to further educate myself on what different heart rate zones mean for fitness, but some preliminary reading suggests that if I keep my heart rate in a lower (though elevated) range, I'll be in my "fat-burning" zone.

And that the further I push that heart rate the more it will push my body beyond that benefit and into ... I'm not sure. That's where I need to read more so I can understand what the higher exertion does for fitness training.

In the meantime, I've been trying to keep my heart rate in the first (teal) and second (green) heart rate zones (as determined by my smart heart rate monitor). And that pinky red you see in my earlier workouts? It's me nearly maxing out my heart rate before I started reading about healthy zones and how to approach aerobic training ...

(And regarding those nil data sets for days I don't work out: For this chart and the next, it would be funky to see "0" for my heart rate those days. I think it's more useful to mark progress from one workout day to the next, whenever it may fall.)


overall heart rate & speed

overall heart rate & speed

And here's a big-picture look at my heart rate.

As far as I understand, heart rate is a good measure of overall health. What I do with this chart is keep an eye on my maximum and average heart rates for each workout, as well as the average speed for those workouts.

My thought? That putting those two numbers together will help build a more complete picture of wellness: If my heart rate goes down over time and my average speed goes up, then I'm getting in good shape.


weight tracking

weight over time

I had to do a little trickery here, as Google's charting seems to have a glitch: I can't set my X-axis to a number higher than "0."

Why do I want to adjust my X-axis? Because the narrower the range of numbers displayed, the greater the difference appears when I go up or down a pound.

What I discovered: I *can* set my X-axis at a number lower than "0." (Silly Google.)

So I've set the chart range to display between -130 lbs. and -114 lbs.

Which is a long way to explain why you see the line designating my goal weight (115 lbs.) hovering above my daily weigh-in line (which creeps *up* as I lose weight).

*Phew* Did you get all that?


bathroom scale numbers

bathroom scale numbers

The number I'm most interested in here is my body fat percentage, which I would love to get down to 18 percent one day (which would mean me basically being an athlete and shifting my activity into high gear). Right now it's hovering around 28 percent.

I'd like to read up on healthy percentages for these other numbers. Right now, I'm around 52 percent water, 36 percent muscle mass and 3.5 percent bone mass.

A note about this chart: imagine that the walls of color you see are stacked one behind the other, rather than on top of one another. Which is why that little strip for muscle mass looks so tiny (36 percent), even though it's greater than the body fat (at 28 percent).

what does it all mean?

I'm trying to look at these numbers more in the spirit of scientific observation than fire-under-my-ass motivation.

I know I'm making good, healthy decisions. I know that my weight and various body percentage numbers will slowly approach a healthier range. I know my heart rate will slowly decrease as I get more fit.

But isn't it interesting to watch those things happen quantitatively? And couldn't these numbers be helpful to observe hiccups or to help me get in front of bad habits rearing their ugly heads?

I think so.

And I hope you think so, too. Because I plan to produce weekly updates using these charts. Maybe some monthly updates to analyze bigger shifts. And wouldn't it be great to see where these charts rest in one year?(!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

missing something ... protein?

I'm digging into this right now. I microwaved it for a minute and sprinkled it with sea salt. This modest portion of edamame (3 oz. / 0.5 cups) contains 12 g of protein.

Do you know why I care about how much protein this has?

Because I have been SLUGGISH lately. And today I hit my breaking point. (Come to think of it, about this time last week I met a similar breaking point ...) I found myself super drained, unable to focus, hungry, grumpy. And I mean this was on an "am I getting sick??" level.

No good reason! I had my morning exercise, my delicious oatmeal/fruit/honey/almond milk breakfast. I had my 12 oz. of coffee.


It was incredibly frustrating. And I continued to feel unwell after my (healthy!) lunch of homemade grain bread, hummus, veggies, granola bar.

On top of all this, I have this nagging feeling that my late-afternoon sleepies (which I experience nearly every day) are entirely avoidable ...

So I wanted to get to the bottom of it.

So I dug into the numbers behind my entire food intake for yesterday and found I'd consumed around 30 grams of protein.

*Ahem* That is not enough. (And this is where I really want to start reading serious, trustworthy, educational materials about nutrition and such, because all I can say is that) I've seen several references to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that folks get about 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight.

That would put me at 45 grams per day if I weren't active. (125 lbs. divided by 2.2 to get my weight in kilograms, by the way.) But when I add activity I should add protein, too.

This article on [ehh?] suggests that if I'm active, I should take my weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.6 to calculate my grams of protein per day. That brings me up to 75.

If that number seems a little steep, at least it suggests a range to guide me. And 30 does *not* fall between 45 and 75 grams of protein.

taking-action time

I'm going to forgo the gym tomorrow (seriously, I'm still quite tired), which kinda bums me out because I was looking forward to my second Body Pump class (have I mentioned that yet? I suppose not ... I went on Tuesday, I used the absolute smallest amount of weight possible and I *still* found myself struggling at times. It was great, of course).

I will eat a bean and egg breakfast (overkill?).

And I think it's about time for me to bone up on protein-rich veggies, beans, etc. (I eat meat. I will not shun it. [Ever?] But I'm happy to eat it in moderation and I want to get most of my protein from non-meat sources.)

I asked for advice from muh Facebook friends, and folks suggested (list!):

» edamame (see above)
» cottage cheese (I love it! But I must use moderation here, too, because cheese is one of my over-eater foods)
» hemp seed powder (what the what?! I can't wait to find out what this is like)
» quinoa
» tofu
» tempeh
» seitan
» nuts
» avocado
» kashi cereals (which I totally wanna learn how to scratchmake)

It's a great list. I want it to grow. And now I'm wondering what other food groups, vitamins, minerals, fats, etc. I could work into my diet to bring a better balance to meals.

For now, though, focusing on protein seems like the plan ...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

still here! ... & list blog: things i wanna do with this blog

To anyone who has been anxiously awaiting the blog entry wherein I explain how I use spreadsheets these days (the anticipation just *killing* you, right?), I'm still here, and I still plan to write about it!

where the hell have i been?

I've been doin' all kinds of things: heading to the gym, making ice cream, making lists (in muh brain), making spreadsheets, making charts based on those spreadsheets, eating tasty & healthy foods, experimenting with granola bars.

I've also been having all kinds of ideas about what to write for this here food & do blog. To be honest, maybe too many ideas. Or maybe not that ... maybe it's that I've had an inappropriate and overwhelming urge to Do Them All Now, which has killed the basic urge to actually *start* a blog entry.

So how do I fix that? Baby steps.

First baby step, my ideas! (list score!)

some ideas for food & do

» recipes. Duh. *food* & do. I need recipes. And I want to post them. And I already have several I want to share (our spent-grain bread, granola bars, my crazy-ugly-healthy dinner bowls ...). Just gotta do it. Which means photos (more on that later), note-taking, boiling-downing, appetizing!

» photos: take better ones. My photo skills are about like this: take a photo; it looks like the thing; share it with the world. I would my skills to be more like: set up the photo; adjust the light; muss camera settings; play with perspective; take a photo; edit photos; pick the best; share with the world! This is gonna take some self-educating and lots of practice. Time will tell ...

» progress photos. lots of them. I've brainstormed a photo styling for the photos (making some decisions -- like using a black-and-white format -- that will help accentuate any little changes in my shape), and I have an idea of how to pull it off. The question remains: will my husband be ready to take the same photo of me nearly EVERY DAY until I say "when"?

» photos of meals throughout the week. Not a photo of every single meal I eat every single day, but maybe one photo of one thing/meal I eat each day (skipping days that are just *blah*). I think it'd: be good practice for my photo-making; inspire me to bring new (photogenic) foods into my life; fill the world with more-and-more food photos (which it needs, always).

» adventures! I am increasingly keen on bringing physically challenging things into my life: boxing, dance classes, long-ass hikes, serious bike rides (races?!), running?? Of course I would want to document my adventures. There are just *so many* ... where do I begin?

» science of food & exercise. The more I move, the higher regard I have for healthy food. The more I move, the more I wonder how the hell it all works (how does the food turn into energy? How does my body feed off that energy? How does fat convert into muscle? WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING INSIDE MY BODY?!). I want to start reading about all this science stuff, and then I want to write about it. Not, like, a pro or anything. Just as one kind eater/exerciser/healthy-wannabe to another.

I think that sums it up. I think? There's more. I think. I can't remember it though. (See why my blog's been so quiet?? This is what happens to my brain when I fill it with ideas ... it stops working.)

OK. Off to figure out how to make all this stuff happen ...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

a week of good decisions

Let me put it this way:

I'm drafting this blog entry as I sit and watch my husband make dinner (which he almost always does ... I'm lucky!), and I'm drankin' an entire beer to eat up the last of my bonus Weight Watchers points.

Not even my activity points (I earned 33 of those this week, by the way). No. Just the standard 49 extra points that Weight Watchers doles out to, I think, everyone.

I'm also indulging in a simple and decadent dinner: some Patrick-made tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich (on homemade spent-grain bread!). Even with all the cheese and butter in the meal, I had to make sure to include a little dessert (bittersweet chocolate and a granola square) to finish up those extra points.

You know what else? I exercised a lot this week: four trips to the gym to hop on the elliptical (plus some stretching and crunches), one visit that included a 55-minute body flow class, and a 20-mile bike ride up a mountain and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Not only am I working hard to use up my extra points, but it's on a week I would have assumed I'd need them most.

But I haven't needed them. It's interesting ... every time I've come home from a hard workout, I've maybe wanted a piece of fruit, but that's it. It's usually at least an hour before I eat a real meal (and I've been returning from my workouts around mealtimes).

The reason I'm working to use my extra points? I suppose if I left them on the table, I'd technically be eating fewer calories and possibly speeding my weight loss. But I've always thought of the Weight Watchers allotment as an indication of a healthy intake. Under-cutting my allotment, consequently, has seemed like a bad accident waiting to happen.

the week and its accomplishments

What you read above is just an indication of how good my week has gone. Some other things I think were pretty brilliant include:

» I was as sugar-free as I aimed to be and I saw the results that I thought I might. Namely, I didn't experience my typical end-of-week doldrums. My cane-sugar consumption was limited to the granola squares I made last week, bittersweet chocolate and a single indulgence in three Fig Newton's (on a day I was desperately hungry for I-don't-know-why). Otherwise? Fruit and honey.

I'll keep my low-sugar goal for the week ahead. I only anticipate breaking it when I know there's a good reason to enjoy a super-sweet treat.

» One pound, lost. I'm not *worried* about losing weight as much as I am about getting in shape, but it was getting ridiculous that I was making some fairly good decisions and not budging an ounce. Sometime earlier this week I wondered if I was eating too muich "zero points" fruit. Which, of course, still has calories.

So I checked out the USDA's guidelines for daily fruit: 2 cups. Umm. I was eating a load more than 2 cups.

That day I decided to cut back to 2 cups of fruit, and since that day I've felt less full ... and I'm finally down one pound on the scale.

» I got the gym four times, as hoped! The previous week, I'd only found my way to the gym twice. This week, though, I headed to the gym three times before work; then I headed to the Saturday body flow class at 9:30 AND followed that up immediately with 50 minutes on the elliptical; AND AND did a 19-mile training bike ride with Patrick today.

I've felt able and willing to do all this exercise. If my good mood and high energy continue, I think I might have another week like it ahead.

» That bike ride ... It felt pretty good. Patrick and I rode 19 miles. We started by heading straight up Mill Mountain. At the top, we headed left (away from the (Star) and connected with the Blue Ridge Parkway. We rode that until we hit Vinton, at which point we headed back into town and headed home.

We averaged a little better than 10 miles an hour and my top speed on the toughest part of the ride (the final climb on Mill Mountain) was 4 mph. Those are both numbers I want to improve, but I'm happy just to have established a precedent for myself.

And this is what I looked like upon my return ...


Just so's you know.

» Spreadsheets! Oh wait ... this deserves its own blog entry ...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

a week of food ... almost

Two weeks ago I set out to improve my photo habits my committing to a week's worth of food pictures.

I did it, nearly.

monday lunch (14 pts)
(see the full gallery on flickr)

I forgot my camera a couple of times; I ate my meal too quickly others. But I think the images I did capture are a good representation of my food life.

some changes i've already made

I've decided that 2 + 2 = don't eat sugar. So no more of these blueberry muffins, or cake truffles (which were admittedly a seasonal treat: Patrick surprised me with them on Valentine's Day). No more danged delicious scones for breakfast! (OK, that's only a little harsh: treats are fine occassionally, and if I'm going to have a sweet for breakfast I absolutely must pair it with a protein).

You'll also see a lot of fruit in those pictures. I was kinda stuffing my face with fruits, because Weight Watchers no longer assigns points values to them. But my weight hasn't budged since I started counting my points several weeks ago, and I was often feeling pretty stuffed at night. Answer? Cut back fruit to 2 cups per day. One cup would be about 1 banana or three clementines or 1 apple.

have these changes made a difference?

The photos are from week before last. I've applied my two changes in the past week, and I've absolutely seen a difference.

happier I still can't believe how much energy I have and how positive my attitude has stayed through the beginning of the weekend. In weeks past, I'd invariably find myself in a slump by Friday night or Saturday morning. My early bet is on my having reduced sugar this week. The only sweets I've indulged in are my homemade granola squares (which come in at about 1/10 oz. of sugar per ounce of square) and the bittersweet chocolate I nibble on daily (minimal amount of sugar there). I'll keep this up for as long as I can do it. I'm even getting excited to brainstorm a good, healthy Sunday brunch that'd satisfy my sweet tooth ...

a tad lighter Not terribly lighter so far. Maybe 1/2 lb. But it's still something! And I haven't felt overstuffed or bloated this week. And I've found myself perfectly happy with 2 cups of fruit a day.

excited about this weekend

So many things to look forward to on a Saturday morning!

» Firstly, I'm excited that I'm excited on a Saturday morning. I can't tell you how many weekends I've started totally down in the dumps, despite the fact that the preceding weeks were productive, successful, happy-making. The culprit? I'm guessing the end-of-week sugar indulgences and Saturday-morning pancake-breakfasty habits. Score one for making a healthy decision (the week in review & its lessons) and sticking with it!

» Yoga! Actually, Body Flow at the Y, which is apparently a mix of pilates, yoga and tai chi. I'm looking forward to the stretching and core workout I expect I'll get out of this class. Also, it's this morning (I'll finish this blog entry and head out the door!), and I have a feeling it'll be a great start to the weekend.

» Making more spent-grain bread, which I think Patrick and I should do our darndest to document so we can share it with you all in detail (and pretty pictures). This stuff is so good, I think we'll make a double batch and freeze the finished loaves that will be in excess. Also? I'll make some malt syrup from his leftover, unboiled wort! It's earthy and sweet and I plan to use it in an upcoming batch of buttercream frosting for god-knows-what.


» A "real" bike ride. Patrick's gonna lead me through my first "real" training bike ride. Meaning it'll be long (I've asked him not to tell me how long until we're done), and that I should attempt to pedal continuously (Patrick observed in a previous, casual ride that I coast a lot, which is a no-no for group road rides and if I plan to ever compete, which maybe I do ...). I'm so looking forward to the challenge, and to spending quality time with Stinger.

» My first "follower" through blogger that I don't know in real life! Liz Loses! I can't tell you the little thrill I got at seeing that someone was following my blog who lives in Ohio (where I have never been), and who's doing the kinds of things with her food and exercise that I aim to do. Thanks, Ms. Liz Loses, for making my day!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"cookin'" » Looky my husband in the kitchen, where I often find him after my long bus ride home. I'm a lucky lady.

Originally uploaded by lindsaybeeson

This, by the was, was orginally posted using the Flickroid app, which gave me the option of posting my photo directly to this blog. If you saw it lookin' a bit strange, it's because the app doesn't provide options for how the photo renders. I may or may not use this option in the future, but it sure is nice to know it's there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

the week in review & its lesson

The past week was ... pretty good. I didn't reach any of my goals from last week (I didn't hit the gym at least four times, only two; I didn't wear my heart rate monitor once, because I still haven't found it; the closest I came to waking up at 5 a.m. -- regardless of my intention to go the gym -- was the morning I got out of bed at 5:55. "Yay! Still the 5 o'clock hour!").

The thing that makes this all kinda OK is that the weekend was great. Seriously.

Patrick and I, as I mentioned earlier, rode our bikes up a mountain and made our first trip to a Star City Brewers Guild meeting. We met a ton of great people who brew beer. Additionally? The food spread included a lot of healthy options (I ate fresh greens, hummus, tabouli, flat bread and some spinach dip). And, AND ... how many different versions of homemade lifestyle did I hear about? Among them: compost worms in someone's house, homemade kimchi, other folks' versions of beer breads, home-cured ham, homegrown mushrooms, hop gardens. This group meets once a month and I expect I'll learn something new about beer and about scratchmade living at every meeting.

So that was how amazing Saturday was.

Sunday was pretty great, too: a hike halfway along Tinker Ridge; homemaking an Italian loaf, granola bars*, granola cereal; and a delicious dinner of that fresh bread, toasted and accompanied by sliced pear, tomato, roquefort, fresh mozzarella and honey.

Are you f*cking kidding me? The weekend could not have gotten much better. And it's one I want to replicate again and again. I want a bike ride every weekend, a hike, homemaking, and good tasty nutritious eating.

Is this some version of spring fever?

this is the tasty italian, made by patrick. i'm so glad we finally started making all the bread we eat ... so simple and yet such a feeling of accomplishment. below? the bread mid-mix, and a little saazie-face to get you all "awwww"-y. (this is what we see anytime we're in the kitchen: her trying to be as close to us as possible without getting in the way. ok, sometimes getting in the way.)

In any case, as good as the weekend was, I still want to take some notes from my less-than-stellar week ...

the lessons

1. I need to seriously cut the sugar out. And I need to give credit to my fruit & oat bowls for satisfying my sweet tooth.

I was pretty go-go-go all week ... until Friday.

I've tried to bring a certain tradition into the workplace (which I borrowed from Patrick's old job in Knoxville): #coffeefriday; celebrate payday with coffee and breakfast! It's brilliant and important and something to look forward to every two weeks.

In past weeks I've brought in homemade scones and biscotti, a co-worker brought donuts another week, and yet another everyone contributed to oatmeal breakfast (bringing spices, oats, fruit, coconut, etc.)

This week? I brought in some delectable treats from Bread Craft, a sweet little shop serving up European-style goods. I highly recommend it, and I will eat there on into the future (their salads are tasty, their sandwiches hearty, their cheese is housemade!).

But between my coffee Friday morning and my ginger scone from Bread Craft, I turned crabby instantly. And then I ate another pastry in the afternoon (danish).

I knew what was happening, but I was not able/willing to fight it. I knew that sugar is no good for me first thing in the morning (or in that quantity, or unaccompanied by protein and fiber). But I picked up the scone and ate it. I knew that the reason I wanted the second pastry was because I'd eaten the first. But I ate the second pastry.

I'm going to challenge myself this week: I'm going to limit my cane-sugar intake to the little amount that's included in my newly homemade granola-bar-squares (one ounce of granola square has about 0.1 ounce of sugar) and bittersweet chocolate. Otherwise, I'm going to look to fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth, or to forgo a sweet when I would otherwise indulge the craving.

What I hope to see is a week of me feeling full of energy and ready to take on all the challenges that await me.

here's a nonsugar dessert I enjoyed earlier in the week: chopped pear, plain old-fashioned oats, malted barley, semisweet chocolate & honey. it was delicious and it's the kind of thing i plan to reach for whenever i think "sweet!"

2. I absolutely must have all my morning stuffs prepped if I want to get my ass successfully and energetically to the gym. I lost my keys last week. Also, I have no idea where my heart rate monitor is. Some mornings my lunch wasn't ready and when as I was going to bed all I could think about was how rushed I was going to feel trying to fit in a trip to the gym, getting ready for work, eating breakfast and making my lunch. I'm pretty sure that anxiety kept me in bed some mornings.

So I want to remove all simple obstacles. I aim to have: my gym clothes folded and ready for me, my keys stored alongside them, my iPod full and charged, my lunch made.

I'll limit my goals to these two, but I think of them as very small, integral cogs in a very big machine. I hope to be running more smoothly one week from today.

* The recipe for granola bars (shown above cut into about 2-point portions) is from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I recommend just about anything that this behemoth food brand creates (Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, the America's Test Kitchen PBS show, Their business model is built around being only mildly open source, so to speak. I'll respect that and post a recipe for the granola bars only after I've tweaked it enough to feel like I can call it my own.

a sunday of home work.

I'm excited for Patrick and me today. We have a hike ahead of us (Tinker Ridge to Hay Rock Overlook). We're going to bake and make (Italian bread, granola cereal, granola bars).

I'm going to find my camera USB chord so I can upload all the food photos I've taken this week. I'm going to write some blog entries about our beer-grain bread, about my meals throughout the past week, my goals for the week ahead.

day of indulgent productivity

I believe in a day of rest, but there's this interesting thing I've noticed my past few weekends: I'd much rather get my full-on restfulness out of the way on Saturday.

Yesterday we rode our bikes along the greenway and up Mill Mountain. Then we headed to our first Star City Brewers Guild meeting (for homebrewers and those interested in homebrew). We indulged in lots of scratchmade beer, good food and excellent company.

I suppose we didn't rest, per se, but we also didn't do anything that I'd consider work.

Today, though? After the hike, all that baking and making is what we need to stock our pantry for the week ahead. Maybe we should add hummus to the list, in fact. And we *do* have a lot of frozen blueberries on hand (Patrick woke up early this morning to start our coffee and make us delicious scratch muffins). I think I should turn the extras into quick jam.

And I'll come back to my blog and edit photos, think on the work I've done and the work I want to do. I get to steep in thoughtfulness about the lifestyle I'm trying to attain.

I like Sunday for this kind of work because it feels like I'm gearing up for a productive week ahead. I like the fact that restfulness is starting to feel like a chore I know I need to get done (if I don't take time for rest, I will crash after a few weeks and find myself useless for an entire weekend and in terrible condition at the beginning of my work week).

And I'm not sure how much better it gets than filling a home with the sweet and savory smells of scratchmade food.

Monday, February 14, 2011

another argument for whole foods

See this stuff? I think Dr. Lustig would approve.

veggie sampler

I woke up Saturday morning to an episode of The People's Pharmacy called "Sugar Hazards." It featured this Lustig man, and later a Dr. Teitelbaum, both of whom were discussing how harmful sugar-laden (read: "processed") foods are to our metabolisms and health.

This radio program happened to be one of Those Moments ... when a few truths that were already hinted at in my life suddenly found the ground they needed to stand on, firm.

what i came away with
One of the audio clips you'll find in that link above is an extended interview with Lustig. He's coming from a place of science and medicine (he's a pediatric neuroendocrinologist).

Following are some of the points he makes (paraphrased by me), ones that resonated.

» lustig likes to say that when god gave us the poison, he packaged it with the antedote. In this case, the poison is sugar, or fructose, and the antedote is fiber. Think of fruits. Even sugar cane, which is a plant -- mostly stalk -- that contains a relatively modest amount of sweet. (He adds that the only time that's not true is with honey, "and that's guarded by bees.")

Our bodies are refined systems and, as with so many things in nature, they rely on a particular balance. The level of sugars that nature provides are low, in addition to the fact that our bodies have to work pretty hard processing fiber to access them. This setup is how we evolved and how our bodies, when healthy, function optimally.

» sugar is readily available to us now, and it's messing with our insulin levels. and this is contributing to obesity. and low energy. and hunger. Here's something I didn't know: Sugar is two things: glucose and fructose. Glucose, as Lustig says, is metabolized into energy immediately. Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized only by the liver, which stores it immediately as fat and increases our level of insulin (which is "the energy storage hormone" ... something else I didn't know).

Basically, all the fructose we eat can never be anything but stored fat; consequently it can never be used toward our energy output, it's never given a chance!

So even if I eat as many calories as I burn, if some of those are fructose, those calories work against me in two ways by: 1) immediately turning into fat, and 2) putting me at an energy deficit. I've just gained weight but I'm still hungry. And I lack physical energy. And so I reach for more food. Which may contain fructose. And if this cycle goes far enough, I become a tired, hungry, fattened individual.

Lustig points to the sugars added to processed foods as a main culprit in the nation's increasing obesity problem. What's the best way to avoid them? According to him, shop the perimeter of a grocery store to buy produce and whole foods. If it's on a shelf, it's built for shelf-life by way of preservative sugars. ... Another argument for whole foods!

» don't exercise to lose weight. exercise because it makes you feel good. Lustig says "diet is about weight; exercise is about health. Diet is about pounds; exercise is about inches."

One incredible thing Lustig repeated throughout the interview: it is a false notion that if you *simply* burn more calories than you consume, you'll lose weight. One reason? If a diet continuously feeds you fructose, you'll immediately store it as fat and rob yourself of healthful, useful energy. Another: studies, he says, have shown that exercise does little in the way of "burning" fat. Instead, it converts it to muscle.

So, he says, "go out and get some exercise done, just don't look at the scale." Don't use exercise as a tool for weight loss, but as an absolutely necessary tool for good health. "The more exercise you do," he says, "the better you're gonna feel."

I've known that I wanted to stay away from processed foods, but I didn't have a full picture of why that was. I knew I liked the idea of eating things that came from the earth or wholly from animals (and I started a list of whole grains that are on my bucket list). It just seemed right. This radio program, though, put this idea in full focus.

I've known that too much sugar makes me feel off-kilter: hungry more quickly, irritable, tired. I even confessed that I needed to nix donuts from my breakfast options after a crabby weekend that should have been splendid. Now I know why, biochemically, I was right.

And I've just recently started understanding that activity can be a part of my life for the the damn *fun* of it. I'm determined to emphasize activities that bring me happiness (and aren't just an item on my list of daily chores). Now here's Lustig saying exactly that.

This radio show, man ... good timing.

but don't take my word for it!
There's so much more to get from this discussion. I truly think it's worth the hour to listen to it. The first ten minutes may require your undivided attention as they involve the most intense science, but if you don't have a full hour to spare, at least multi-task with this in the background.

... and let me know what else you get from it!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the week in review & the one ahead

First, look at this, will you? My husband made this for me for our early Valentine's Day dinner.

5 oz. pan-fried steak topped with 1/4 oz. roquefort butter, 3 oz. homemade whole-grain bread, braised endives with bacon & cream.

Plus (PLUS!): 6 oz. sweet mashed potatoes that needed just a few more minutes to cook, and a slice of cheesecake drizzled with homemade malt syrup and garnished with pear slices.

42 points. But I had them to spend and I was happy to do it.

the things i did
It was a good week. Patrick and I shared a Saturday and Sunday cooking delicious food, riding bikes and being generally productive. We made bread using the spent grain from his beer-making! We ate lots of fruits & veggies (and have already stocked back up on mangoes, pears, apples, avocado ...). We shared happy-hour beers at one of our new favorite spots, Lucky.

I'd set small goals for myself last weekend, when I was celebrating the end of my return the gym. They went something like:

» go to the gym at least four times in the week head. And I did! Now, I'm committed to being easy on myself this go-round, but I have to give credit where it's due: when I headed to the Y this afternoon, I think I was at least 50% motivated by making sure I could say "I reached my goal!"

» do at least 45 minutes on the elliptical each gym visit / wear my heart rate monitor. Ehh. Neither. I mean, today I absolutely rocked 45 minutes *hard* on the elliptical. But other mornings I phoned it in. And I forgot my heart rate monintor every single time. C'est la vie! Next week ...

speaking of next week: goals!
» four gym visits! I could push it to five trips, but four still feels like an accomplishment. And I'll set my sights (again) on doing at least 45 minutes of cardio each visit.

» wake up at 5 a.m., regardless if I go to the gym. I was finishing at the Y one morning when I looked at the clock and realized that if I'd not decided to exercise that morning, I'd still be in bed, not even awake yet. And *then* I thought how much of my day I was giving up to sleep (when I stay in bed on my non-gym mornings, I'm almost always getting "extra" sleep ... somewhere beyond the seven-or-so hours that I need to feel fully rested). And then I thought of all the things I feel like I don't have time for. And *then* I put those two thoughts together and realized I could try to wake up at 5 every morning and get productive one way or another. So there we go. Goal! 5 a.m. wake-up call.

» a week of food photos. One thing I want to improve about this blog is more (and relevant) photos. I can do only so much justice to my adventures through words. Images are priceless, and I want to get in the habit of making' em.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

hikes & bikes move me.

I've written pretty extensively about how much I love my bike, Stinger. I'm excited for the onset of warmer weather so I can climb back on and up some of these mountains we moved into. In fact, Patrick and I might go out for a ride this afternoon.

So it's clear I love biking.

But after a hike up McAfee Knob with Patrick and my brother-in-law, Eric, last Sunday, I rediscovered my love of hiking.

{thanks to eric beeson for documenting our hike! all photos in this entry are his. see the whole collection from his visit.}

not all movement is the same
I have to drag my ass to the gym. I make myself do aerobics (and eventually I'll make myself do weightlifting again) because I know it's good for me.

Maybe I'll find a groove, or even a love, for these things. But that's a way's off. For now, they're work.

What has never been work, in that mental sense, is hiking. Yes, physically I get tired and sore. But mentally I'm engaged 100 percent. I even enjoy the strain of it: My favorite moments in a long hike are on the stretches of trail that require a little full-body climb, or a steep, lunging ascent. My legs are involved, my abs, my arms for balance.

Engaging these same parts of my body in a gym wouldn't do much for me. But on a trail? Exhilerating.

And this is what I take from that difference: Movement is very personal, and most people likely have a specific activity that engages their body, but also get their whole self excited. I'm thinking of dancers, soccer players, runners, gym rats. Being physically engaged is only part of the reason they commit to the activity. Or maybe it's no reason at all they're engaged. Doing that thing, whatever it is, excites their brains, their spirit.

Hiking is this for me. And biking. These things aren't easy for me, but I'm not put off by the difficulty.

what do they mean to me?
There's something similar in hiking a trail and hopping on a bike: I can do both in a pack, but even when I'm surrounded by people it's perfectly acceptable to exist within my own thoughts. The hike Sunday was full of good conversation, but equally full of a peaceful, easy quiet. When I ride with Patrick we speak occasionally, but I mostly concentrate on the road and my bike.

I know the solitary nature of hiking and biking plays a big part in why I enjoy them. But they're different in these simple ways (for me, anyhow):

My biking is an exercise in constant challenge. When I first got on a road bike last fall, I was challenging myself. When I first travelled a road by myself, that was a challenge. When I see hills, I dare myself to climb them with as much vigor as I can muster. When I find myself on a straight-away and with reserve energy, I attempt top speeds.

The fact that I even wished to push myself so hard in a physical way was an exceptional surprise. I did that through cycling, and I'll probably continue to channel my athletic ambitions through a bike.

So, there's that.

And then there's this ...

{the summit at mcafee knob}

Hiking gets me to a calm space, by way of the ground around me. The views on all the good hikes I've done around Roanoke are quiet and magnificent. The work is hard but the pace I choose is steady and easy. I haven't found a hike yet that escapes sounds of the highway or of planes traveling overhead, but the rest of the soundtrack is crackling and light. It allows me to reach some quiet and very comfortable place in myself that I couldn't get otherwise.

As I'm working to gain a more healthful lifestyle, isn't this supremely important? To be at peace with myself, at ease? I think it is.

so incredibly important
And what if I had never discovered them? I would probably make myself go the gym, and exercise would be a chore. Only a chore.

But I did discover them for myself. So I have a chance to experience exercise and movement in a very positive context. And potentially I get to explore it as a means to get to something else in my life. I've found a way to tap my ambition and to start to move toward a more peaceful, easy place within myself. Won't that lead to something?

It feels like it already has, but it also feels like there is something huge looming ahead.

PS: Look at this dog face. We are two lucky folks, Patrick and I ...
{saazie knows something we don't know. i can't wait till she tells us what it is.}