Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year's Healthy Resolution

Happy New Year, everyone!

Like everyone else and their mom, one of my New Year's resolutions this 2014 is to get healthy and fit. Since last summer, I've been doing yoga once a week and Zumba with friends every other week or so. When the swimming season ended, these two activities kept me on track. I also started logging my food and exercise on, which was easy to do with my iPhone (with the bar code scanning). And it all worked: I stopped eating such huge portions, dropped some excess weight, and toned up my arms and especially my legs. Even my waistline shrank a little, though not to 2011 and 2012 levels.

But also like everyone else and their mom, I slacked off around November when the holidays rolled around. I didn't stop doing yoga or Zumba, but I did quit logging my food on MyFitnessPal. I started eating whatever sugary and grain/carb-y thing people offered, and I bought and ate such items for myself even though I knew they would give me gas and bloating later on. (For me, pasta is a huge culprit.) I didn't do any extra workouts to compensate for extra calories coming in. Even worse, I took a couple weeks off from any aerobic activity. My skin started to break out severely from all the cheap chocolate I was stuffing in my face (cheap because they're made up more of sugar and milk than the good stuff, real chocolate). Let's just say I wasn't at my best for most of December.

Thankfully, the week between Christmas and New Year's gave me some time to reflect on how I wanted to get back on track. I've been a fan of the Primal (paleo-ish) living philosophy for years now, but to be honest I've had trouble with the "move more" part. I was always athletic growing up, but it was never about disciplining my body; it was about fun. Moving more as an adult takes a lot more effort and discipline, especially with a child around (strangely enough). If I want to work out, I have to budget the time for myself, something I haven't had a lot of practice doing because I've always preferred my physical activity to be either purposeful or FUN (hence the fact that I don't run or do CrossFit -- those aren't fun to me). When I was in school, it was all decided for me: move intensely during P.E. or track or volleyball or weightlifting practice. In college, I didn't really exercise but I did have to walk up and down hills across a huge campus to get to classes and work. Now I'm a stay-at-home mom trying to finish a huge writing project. All of these factors put together have led me to a mostly-sedentary life. Yoga, while I love it, can only do so much with weight-maintenance, especially if it's just once a week. I need to move more. Period.

The good news: my younger sister splurged on all her siblings for Christmas and bought us cool FitBit fitness trackers that you can wear on your wrist all day (you can take it in the shower and you can sleep with it to track your sleep patterns, too). You can see me wearing my Flex wristband in the photos here. The system displays your daily stats on the computer or smartphone. It's the same idea behind logging your food intake, to make you more aware of how much you're moving around. And if you make your daily goals, your wristband buzzes you and on the stats page you get big green happy faces that say "Hooray!" :-) I know it sounds cheesy but it feels pretty good to see it. Another neat thing is that the app links with MyFitnessPal, so you can tell at any given time how many calories you've taken in versus how many calories you've burned. One consequence of this? I've now done several quick workouts (15-30 minutes long) late at night before the stats turn over to the next day! Haha.

It's early days yet, but so far it's fun and interesting to track all of this info. Even if I don't do it for the whole year, at least I'm getting a good sense of my baseline, and for now I feel good about taking control over my habits. I started a week ago, on New Year's Day, and it was kind of a scary revelation to see just how much food and snacks I had gotten used to eating (I was trying hard not to waste all the leftovers in the fridge) and how little I was moving around to compensate. I knew I was bloated and my pants didn't fit as well as they used to, but I didn't realize how badly I was doing. I really fell off the wagon! So far, though, it's been working. I'm down half a pound already from last week, mostly from losing some of the water my body has been hoarding, and my belly looks and feels a little less puffy.

My best "move more" day was last Saturday, when my little family went hiking so my husband could test out his new GPS tracker. (We like our devices in this house, apparently.) We did a 3.7 mile hike at the famous Vasquez Rocks that included some steep hills. Even the 5-year-old managed it. He got tired midway through, but we took several breaks, drank water regularly, and had snacks. We made it in about two and a half hours, and it felt good. I probably would have preferred moving a little faster and maybe not having to push/carry my kid up and down the hills (it was a little scary a few times), but it was a wonderful experience overall. And it was literally all about taking small steps to get to your goal.

And that leads me to make this corollary to my New Year's resolution of getting more fit: I want to be smarter about how I do it. More mindful. Hiking or just walking with my family would be one way to make that happen. It felt as good as when I meditate during yoga. And so far, an extra 15-30 minutes of Zumba in the evenings (using YouTube videos) has been pretty fun. To be honest, I'm not a diehard fan of doing a full hour of non-stop Zumba the way I do it with my friends (I get exhausted by the 30-minute mark and that's no fun); I just like dancing with friends because of the great company, and sometimes we have brunch together. But our Zumba sessions also aren't as regular as I would like. Hopefully, the quicker version I do at home will be more sustainable on a daily basis and thus do a better job of keeping me on track.

I wanted to end with this photo of one of the huge outcroppings that we saw on our hike. It immediately made me think that a sperm whale or a blue whale had become petrified into rock. Of course not really, but I thought it looked cool. Doesn't that look like a sperm whale's eye to you?

xo, Gladys


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