Mind games and the scale

I love this quote and yet sometimes I feel like I’m tethered to the scale, especially right now leading up to the fitness competition. I have an incredibly difficult time losing weight and my day starts off with a gamble on whether the scale will move up or down. Down and I feel great! I feel like I succeeded the prior day and that I can keep going… Up and I start wondering what the hell I did wrong the day before that it’s no going the right direction and will probably have a not so great mood for the next hour. In reality the day to day fluctuations don’t really matter, but even looking at the weekly fluctuations, hitting a plateau can really take the wind out of your sails when you are working yourself so hard. To deal with this i try to do the following:

  • Take progress pictures like the ones I posted here and compare those to the befores… did I change or not? I probably did so ignore the scale.
  • Measure you chest, hips, waist and thighs and see the changes
  • Get your body fat measured; I have a body fat scale but it’s not very accurate, I usually ask the gym if I can use theirs which will give me an idea if my body fat is decreasing. If that number isn’t moving that is a bigger problem than the scale number.
  • Look at how my clothes fit, as long as they are getting looser (except for the thighs which are always tight on me) then we are moving in the right direction
  • Look in the mirror… notice anything different?
  • Think about what you ate yesterday if the scale went up… did I have a lot of salt at dinner? was yesterday a carb up? maybe I’m retaining water.

These can really help you deal with the psychology of scale weight. But the biggest thing I can recommend is DON’T USE A SCALE! I’m serious! Hide it somewhere and only use it if you think you need to. I don’t normally weight myself, but this competition requires a bit closer tracking than just the mirror. I don’t really care what I weigh, but if I’m pushing myself to the limit and not losing weight that can be really upsetting. So for everyone else out there that gets upset at the scale… chuck it out the window… I bet you’ll feel way better 🙂

Now, that is not to say that I haven’t been losing weight. Carb cycling has really pushed through this last plateau and I am down 2.5 pounds in about 1.5 weeks, which is pretty good and I’ve been loving it. Last night I made the most awesome low carb dinner ever! It was a bit salty so the scale went up about half a pound this morning, but per the above, I’m dealing with it. This was the:

Low Carb Burger from Heaven

Low carb cheeseburger with a side salad… happy low carb day!

 Ingredients:

  • 1 Portobello mushroom cap
  • 1 5 oz. extra lean burger patty  (I bought some frozen “Popeye” burgers which are made from extra lean grass-fed beef, mixed with onions, spices, spinach and cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • Toppings of your choice – mine were:
    • 2 tbsp homemade guacamole (avocado, tomatoes, onions, chile pepper, lime juice, cilantro)
    • 1 handful spinach
    • 1 oz smoked cheddar cheese
    • 1 tsp cheddar ale mustard

Directions: (Really these don’t need directions other than maybe the “bun”)

The “bun” and toppings

    1. Slice mushroom cap horizontally so you have 2 circular pieces that can be used as the bun
    2. If you have a barbecue, grill it on the barbecue and I’m sure it will be delicious, otherwise heat a pan to high heat and pan fry the mushroom cap
    3. Cook the burger in your desired fashion, I did mine in a pan and added the cheese so it got nice and melty
    4. Construct your burger using the mushroom as the bun like this.

Nutritional Info (without toppings): Cals – 325     Carbs – 5 g     Fats – 16 g     Protein – 40 g Nutritional Info (with toppings): Cals – 490     Carbs – 9 g     Fats – 29 g     Protein – 47 g

Exercise should be enjoyable… or at least not torture

I hate cardio… there, I said it. I know most of you are thinking it and trying to convince yourself that no no, I really do like going running for an hour feeling like my heart is going to explode out of my chest. You liar! I know some of you probably actually do like running, or other forms of endurance cardio. For instance, I have a friend who ran her first marathon in under 3 hours and 20 minutes and she actually enjoys it. She is also all of 5’2” and probably 110 lbs. She is essentially made for running long distances. I am not.

Let’s think from a biological perspective though. Our bodies are not made to run marathons, sure we have been nomadic at times in our history, but that didn’t involve running for 4 hours and definitely not on pavement. Marathons and running in general is hard on your body because it’s jarring and repetitive. Putting your body through that much exertion releases huge amounts of cortisol, damages you fascia (particularly in your feet) and generally breaks down your body. Our ancestors walked extremely long distances, and they certainly ran when the time called for it, but I can guarantee you they never jogged. Speaking from an evolutionary perspective, there was just never a need.

So what are our bodies made for? Well for one, they are made for walking long distances using lateral movements on uneven surfaces (I am very guilty of just getting on a treadmill, but get outside please). For two, they are designed for short bursts of intense energy or sprinting (think escaping certain death or trying to catch your next meal). Have you ever compared a sprinter to a marathoner?

I think it’s pretty obvious that the person on the left has conserved more lean body mass and generally looks healthier that the person on the right.

But what about all that science-y stuff that says steady state cardio for the win?! Well let’s clarify that. Science has shown that steady state cardio exertion, which is typically defined as consistently keeping your heart rate at about 60% of your maximal effort, is the best for fat loss. This is consistently touted as the reason that you should run at 5 mph for hours on end to lose weight. The problem with this is the study was looking at fat burning and metabolic increases DURING exercise as compared with sprinting or other high intensity workouts. When studies were done that tested the oxygen consumption (a measure of metabolism) and other measures over longer periods of time they found that high intensity workouts burned less fat while the exercise was happening (burning almost exclusively glycogen stores) but that the body continued to metabolize fat for hours after the workout, returning to “normal” about 6 hours later. Comparatively the steady state cardio had minimal lasting metabolic effects.

Additionally, sprinting retains muscle mass and can even help you build mass when compared to long sessions of cardio. Muscle burns more calories at rest that fat or having less muscle. So putting on muscle will also help you lose fat.

There are so many different options out there for cardio vascular exercise, and let me just make this clear, cardio is EXTREMELY important for your health. Your body is not made to do the same thing over and over again, so don’t! Of course you have your favourite workout, but there are lots of different options. Some of the best out there for torching fat are as follows:

  • Tabata workouts or sprints  –> go here if that means nothing to you
  • HIIT – or high intensity interval training
  • Hill walking – this can be emulated on a treadmill and is a natural interval style workout
  • Sprinting – try doing the 100 meter dash a couple of times
  • Cycling – I hate spin classes, but they are definitely awesome to mix up your cardio and who doesn’t love a good bike ride?
  • Interval running  – not HIIT, this is more of a walk run style workout
  • Circuit training – I do leg circuits all the time… in fact I’m doing one today
  • Hiking/long walks – go to a park, it has the added benefit of getting you outside which makes you happier… really it does! Think vitamin D and endorphins.
  • Random sports – most sports involve short bursts of high energy, similar to HIIT

My point is: don’t feel chained to the treadmill to lose weight. There are so many different ways to increase your heart rate, confuse your body and make it burn fat like crazy. If you love running, then you’re probably one of the few people whose body is more tailored for that type of exercise. If that’s the case, then go for it! But if not, listen to your body. I personally find sprinting, and Tabata style workouts way more fun and super rewarding. Plus I get great results that way because (1) I am willing to do it and not make excuses, and (2) my body responds really well to it because I am listening to what it wants… bodies are awesome like that!

I’m sure plenty of people disagree with me on this one, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. I love a good debate!

What is fitness?

For my first actual topic related post I figured I should probably tell you what I’m talking about when I say fitness. There are so many different definitions out there, but when I talk about fitness I’m talking about the whole package. A better term might be overall health, but this seems to be more related to the lack of illness or ailments than of achieving anything. Fitness for me consists of the following things:

  • Being physically active and able to do the things I want to do with ease.
  • Having good nutrition that supplies me with the energy and nutrients to get through the day.
  • Maintaining a good body composition (body fat % is a good indicator of this, NOT the scale).
  • Getting enough sleep and rest to feel energized.
  • Balancing these things with the other important aspects of my life.

Another part of this that is a bit tangential to it all is the fitness competition that I am doing in October. The requirements of preparing for a fitness competition do not really fit this definition of fitness and balance. In order to compete you have to focus in completely on your goal and diet down to a weight that is not maintainable. So when I talk about what I am doing leading up to this competition, keep in mind that this is not my everyday life, though I am trying to make it as sustainable as possible.

Everyone has a different idea in their head about what fitness is. A lot of it has to do with what we want to look like, which seems to take priority and can often lead us down roads that are not healthy in order to look a certain way. My ideal body probably has a lot more muscle than what the average girl would want, so I am working on getting that body. I try not to let other people’s ideas of health and beauty impact me too much and neither should you! If you want to get fit and be healthy, then go after it.

You ARE worth it, so go after what you want.