Workouts, Strawberries and a Positive Body Image

Another week, another workout!  Yesterday I had the day off for the US Independence Day.  In preparation of a few extra drinks I crafted a high-intensity full-body workout.  I was really happy with this one and felt it was pretty well-balanced.  It was also the first time I tried doing double kettlebell step-ups and I was surprised how much the 50lbs slowed me down.  It was a great exercise for legs, abs and balance; probably my favorite and the hardest of the whole workout.  Want to give it a try?

7/4/13 – Set interval timer to 3 rounds 45 sec activity, 15 sec rest.  I used 25lb kettlebells and a 20lb free-weight for the ab twists.

  Buy-In: 1 min high knees
  1. Sumo Jumps
  2. Double KB step-ups
  3. KB Lunge-Row
  4. Kneeling Ab Wheel Rollout
  5. Pull-Ups
  6. Weighted Seated Ab Twists 
  7. Hanging leg-lifts
  Buy-Out: 1 min high knees
 
After that brutal workout (especially in the 90ºF weather we were having) I was ready for a reward.  I found this amazing recipe for vegan, gluten free, grain free strawberry icebox pie.  I grabbed two pints of local strawberries and gave it a go!  I added some raw chocolate to the crust but other than that I used the recipe as written, it is so delicious!  And so healthy!  You have to try it:
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I was really inspired by this blog post from Marianne at myomytv.com.  As someone who follows both her and Zuzka’s workouts it was interesting to see both in the same forum.  I didn’t agree with all of Marianne’s points but I absolutely loved her sentiments about improving our bodies:
 
What do you LOVE? While achieving your strength goals, focus on what you love, not what you want to fix.”
 
THIS.  Thisthisthis.  I’ve mentioned before that I gained respect for exercise late in life, while attending school for Massage Therapy.  I spent my childhood trying to feign illnesses to get out of gym class, and saying “I only run if someone’s chasing me.”  
 
While I dabbled in sports in school, overall I had a very negative view of them.  When I look at the reason for that it really came down to my values not seeming to fit in with the values being thrown on my in gym and on teams.  For one thing, I never understood why people get so brutally invested in sporting events.  I’m all for having fun and rooting for a team, but I can’t connect with the devastation feel when “my” team doesn’t win and how even when a team does win the reaction can be expressed by rioting.  I also don’t understand the amount of corruption in sports with athletes drugging themselves up, dramatically altering their diets to either gain or lose weight, and the perpetuated idea that if you don’t win you’re worthless.  There seems to be a lot of shaming and negative reinforcement in our athletic fields.  I could write a whole entry on this but this is not what’s really goading me right now.  This is about body image.
 
The other issue that really bothers me in the athletic arena is the idea that people should exercise to lose weight, gain muscle, look like that trainer they’ve been ogling over, and basically that they have to change their body to fit some universal image of what “in shape” looks like.  Now let me say right now, I’m not dissing the idea of exercising to lose weight or gain muscle, but I don’t think it should be the predominant driving factor.  I believe that if we all took a more positive approach to diet and exercise as lifestyle choices that there would be higher success rates.
 
I work out and eat right because I love how it makes me feel.  I love the increase in energy.  I love feeling strong and flexible.  I love seeing my body change in ways I didn’t know it could.  It’s also AWESOME that weight loss and more muscle mass comes along with that but if I looked at those two as the defining factors of what makes me fit then I’d always be disappointed.
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Zuzka is gorgeous.  But, if my goal was to look like Zuzka, I would be fighting an uphill battle that I can’t win. I heard a story on VPR recently that discussed a research study done with about 100 women.  They were asked to record their daily diet in a notebook.  Half were given a notebook with a slender woman on the cover and on each page, the other half were given a notebook with just a tape-measure on the cover and each page.  The women given the notebook with the tape-measure lost weight on average.  The women with the notebook with the slender woman GAINED weight on average.  The group conducting the research study said that the women who gained weight just gave up when they realized they could never look like the slender woman.  It actually caused them to over-eat.  Body-shaming does not work.
 
I will never look like Zuzka.  I frankly don’t have the bone structure for it, let alone the genetics to get my body fat percentage that low without working out 5-6 hours per day.  And you know what?  That’s totally ok!!  I look like ME and the more I work out the more I get to discover how my body feels when it’s strong.  I get to explore what I look like when I’m in shape and I get to push my own limits to see what I can physically do.  
 
The line that I’m sure all of you have heard before is Love Your Body.  That’s really it.  If you love your body then you’re going to want to keep it in shape.  You’re going to want to exercise.  You’re going to want to eat right.  LOVE YOUR BODY.  No one else will ever look just like you.  You have the privilege of exploring what your body can do when it’s well taken care of.
 
We all have an inner critic and I know it can be really hard to see past that.  But remember you have a choice.  It doesn’t have to be hard.  It can be really easy.  And it’s a choice you can continue to make.  Did you decide to have a Philly cheesesteak and now you feel like crap?  That’s ok, you can make a different choice tomorrow.  Did you skip your workout for a day?  A week?  A month?  THAT’S OK, because you can choose to work out RIGHT NOW. 😉  
 
Just do me a favor and don’t let your main motivation to be out of shame.  If you work you for YOU there’s a good chance You WILL lose weight and you WILL gain muscle but the bigger point is feeling good in your own skin and letting the pride that you take in yourself be your motivator.  If you truly want to get out of the cycle of working out for a few months and then giving up for the next six months then you need to get past the “90-Day Challenges” and the quick-fix instant-gratification crash courses and really think about the positive effects eating well and exercising have on your body.  Love your body and you won’t have to think about short-term goals, you will find yourself in a healthy long-lasting fitness routine not because society is telling you that’s what you should want, but because that’s what YOU want.

32 Days, 2880 Burpees, 12 Miles and Wearing Too Much Weight!

I’m excited that I’ve made it over a month in my 90 day burpeee challenge!  I’ve also kept up with running a mile every morning and I’m already seeing my speeds improving and my legs are becoming shapelier.  I’m also excited to say that after five days of calf pain, I’m no longer feeling terribly sore from running, just dealing with some minor aches and pains.  I’m just about finished with the current Zuzka ZWOWs that are up on her site so as a present to myself for completing them I purchased her ZCut Power Cardio series and I’ll let you all know what I think of it.  On top of all of this I’m finally finding joy in doing hot yoga and the two sessions I’ve done have kicked my ass, made me sweat more than anything in my life, and made me feel AWESOME!!  This is a huge change from the first time I tried Bikram, when it triggered my acid reflux and I left the class with 15 minutes to spare and cried in the hallway, seriously.

Now I have to get into a topic that I know is seriously overdone on the internet.  I fully expect most of you to zone out right about now.  Oh wait, let me tell you the topic: Body Image.  Ok, now you can zone out. 😉

I’ve been blessed that for most of my life I haven’t struggled with real body image issues.  I’ve had minor issues but for the most part I’ve been confident with my size and shape.  I was stick thin for most of my childhood, to the point of being teased.  Then in high school my Swedish genes kicked in and I suddenly had some junk in the trunk and a small belly.  College rolled around and I was living a very unhealthy lifestyle, practically living off of taco bell and alcohol.  My weight skyrocketed to 180 and I was wearing a size 14.  But somehow I never felt large.  I’m a tall woman, just shy of 6′, which allows me to conceal my weight well. My arms and calves generally remain thin even when my hips, butt, gut and thighs expand.

It wasn’t until I moved to Boston, fresh out of school, and started working a retail job where I was on my feet all day, that I realized how unhealthy I had been.  Just by living a different lifestyle (normal schedule, steady income which led to good food, and walking all the time) I dropped down to a size 8.  I was also doing yoga regularly then but really wasn’t exercising aside from that.  When I then attended school for massage I began lifting weights and building muscle.  That’s when I started paying more attention to my body and I kept my weight around 165.  Not fantastic, but with the muscle and staying at that size 8 I felt good and I think I looked good.  The one thing I really never lost was that gut; my belly always protruded and I have an over-emphasized lordotic curve (curve in the low back) which often means lack of abdominal strength.

Flash forward a few years.  I eat well, I exercise regularly and I even went through training in Kickboxing and Insanity.  I have to say the Insanity program is AWESOME!  It’s HARD, but that was the first thing that really kicked my core strength into gear.  I know I have a great core now, and I’m constantly improving it, but I still have that gut and curve.  I’ve tried not eating within a few hours of bed, eating several small meals instead of a few large ones, cutting out gluten and dairy, even doing full food elimination diets.  Nothing really seems to help.  Then this past November my boyfriend and I really fell off the wagon, as one tends to do around the holidays.  I wouldn’t say it was a worse year than usual but suddenly that 165lbs became 175lbs.  In mid-January I got back on the horse and have been eating healthy and exercising. As you all know in the past 32 days I’ve upped my exercise routine quite a bit.

So guess what?  Want to know how much weight I’ve lost?  I mentioned my legs are looking more cut.  I didn’t mention that my arms are more muscular, my face looks thinner, my shoulders and back look like I could punch through a wall.  So how much weight did I lose?  None.  I gained weight.  As of this morning the scale say I’m 183lbs.  I shit you not.  I’m pissed.  I now have body issues.  Apparently I’m a late bloomer but I’m working my ass off and that gut is going out instead of in.  I use MyPlate so I know what my nutrition is and I’m well within the appropriate range.  I also can’t be gaining muscle this fast, and when I took “before” pictures yesterday it’s apparent that there’s quite a bit of weight around my mid-section.  Even in yoga I found myself self-conscious of the fact that the other women in the room were so much thinner than me.  Wtf?!  I know full well we all come in different shapes and sizes and the point is that I’m healthy so why am I freaking out about this?!

Well, I am.  For the past two days I’ve switched to two smoothies a day.  I was having one for breakfast and now I do one for breakfast, one for lunch, an afternoon snack and a reasonably-portioned dinner.  I don’t feel I personally have much more time to exercise, since I’m already doing about 90 minutes a day, so I have to look at diet.  I also had food allergy testing done and I get the results back in a week so I can see if it’s possible that something I’m eating is bloating me up (the testing was also done for other digestive issues I have).

So….blargh!  But enough venting about my odd weight issues.  Lettuce talk about snacks (yes, punny, but most of you stopped reading ages ago so…):

ImageThis was today’s afternoon snack.  It’s a whopping 108 calories with 8g of protein!

Ingredients (which you can all see pretty clearly):

  • Romaine lettuce leaf
  • Small handful of snap peas
  • Small handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 hardboiled egg, sliced

I rolled it up like a burrito and it was surprisingly delicious and filling enough to get me to dinner, which will be steamed salmon and brussels sprouts.

For now, it’s time to find new exciting smoothie recipes.  I will share that my local health food store offers frozen wheatgrass shots.  I’ve been adding those to my smoothies and it’s pretty good. 🙂