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 ...