6-Week Challenge: The Taste of Defeat / Recalibration

So, last week was bleak. Facing the reality of losing my $500 set off my anxiety, badly. My sleep has suffered ever since, with me either lying awake half the night or waking up an hour or two early and feeling incredibly anxious and panicky. I’ve had a handful of near panic attacks thinking about the money, something I haven’t had more than a couple of times in the past two years.

Maybe because of this, maybe because of my period, I have also been feeling pretty crappy about myself. I have lost weight and inches, my resting heart rate has dropped and my blood pressure has improved but I look in the mirror and see the same body I saw before I started the challenge.

Not to say I don’t like that body… I almost always like my body (especially naked). But I don’t see anything different about it (anymore — before the mid-point weigh-in, I really did).

And I am starting to see some of the disordered thinking creeping in. I’ve mentioned before that I am pretty confident in my ability to resist this, and I still am. But my god, I can see this being so harmful to so many people who were/are at risk or have a history of disordered eating or working out or any sort of body dysmorphia.

(BTW, as I write this I am *cheating* with my second cheat apple of the day and also a cheat dish of two tbsp of nut/seed butter because goddamn if I ain’t starving and I’m too grouchy to sit here and suffer any more.)

For one thing, I’ve started to notice myself judging other people’s bodies. Thoughts like, “Wow, he must be so unhappy with himself, how sad.” OMG!! I don’t think that way! What is happening!

I also find myself feeling anxious when I think about ending this diet and going back to regular eating, because I’m worried about eating the “wrong” things. Again — I don’t think this way! I know I’ll overcome it easily as I have a solid foundation in healthy eating and thinking but it’s disturbing to feel this creeping in. Also it doesn’t feel good.

AND ANOTHER THING! Today and tonight I am hungry! And I’m so damn bored with eating chicken breasts! And I don’t want to meal prep!

I just want to eat an avocado and some almonds and some salmon. <sob>

Annnnnnyway. I met with the trainer last week after my disastrous weigh-in (READ: only disastrous relative to the goal SHE SET FOR ME — by my own goals and standards, I’m doing great! I’m getting stronger! My heart rate is dropping!). She confirmed that I have been following the plan *perfectly.* She even looked at my food log app and couldn’t find one thing wrong. She had no suggestions aside from that I should start drinking a gallon (AN IMPERIAL GALLON) of water each day. That’s 19 cups. Which I’ve been doing, no problem actually, and haven’t seen any difference.

So how’s that for a negative post? Haha. I’m just bein’ honest. Only nine days left! I don’t know if I’ll make it through tomorrow eating like this. I AM SO BORED!

We’ll see how my final body fat measurement goes… as that’s the only metric that matters for the challenge. I will post my overall results as well next weekend or the last week in November. Just wish me luck sitting with this anxiety until then. It’s unpleasant.

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6 Week Challenge Mid-Point Weigh-in: Despair

Oof.

We had our midpoint weigh-in tonight, meaning we’ve been at it three weeks and have three more weeks to go. I was so excited as I’ve been feeling well, my clothes are fitting differently and I felt like I’ve been doing really well. I was sure I’d be at least halfway to my (or, the challenge’s) goal of 6% body fat lost in six weeks.

I lost 1% body fat.

Normally I wouldn’t be disappointed about that at all. I lost body fat! And I’ve lost over five pounds. But if I’ve lost 1% body fat, that means I need to lose another 5% in the next three weeks in order to get my $500 back.

Also, with the weight I’ve lost and the adjusted body fat percentage, that means I’ve lost 5.2 lbs, of which 3.3 lbs has been fat and 1.9 lbs has been muscle. Three weeks of intense HIIT workouts to lose 1.9 lbs of muscle. I could cry (actually I’ve been crying most of the evening).

This feels awful. I feel the danger here of falling into a disordered eating trap (I’m still confident I won’t as I’m pretty well set up in that regard), and I also feel like I’ve already lost the $500… so why even bother with the rest of the challenge?

Truthfully I don’t even have that $500 to lose. I took it from a spot I should not have. I was just so determined that I could follow the plan and give it my all, and I’ve done just that. Why should I be penalized for the plan not working to the organizer’s own requirement?

I do like her and I think her gym is good, for workouts. But if I lose my $500 I will most definitely be posting everywhere possible online about this challenge. And yes, if that happens I’ll be editing these posts to give the name of the business and trainer.

Tonight I feel like a failure at everything and have lost all motivation to do anything… exercise… meal prep… write… Ugh.

6 Week Challenge: Weeks 2 and 3

Things have been going really well, actually! Andi and I have been working out three times a week at the associated gym, doing 30-45 minute HIIT circuit workouts (something like this but with more medicine balls and dumbbells).

Though I remain skeptical of the diet, I haven’t been hungry. I’ve added a bit here and there, like a handful of pumpkin seeds on Halloween or a slice of pizza (oops) last night. Mostly we have been following the plan really closely though, adding only a bit of vegetables at each meal.

My body is definitely changing, with my pants starting to get a bit loose and noticeable definition coming in my butt, abs and arms (and, according to my friends at work, my face).

Speaking of my body, I haven’t been as sore, either. Still sore — still definitely working! But the workouts started to feel more doable after two weeks. That was a very welcome change!

I was under the impression that we should be working out up to six days a week in total and was going for runs or doing yoga on my off days, but was noticing that my runs really weren’t going well. I mentioned this to the trainer and she said that actually, since the diet is so calorie-restricted, we shouldn’t be doing really any cardio at all. She said I can go for a fun run once a week if I want to but nothing more challenging. Our bodies aren’t getting enough calories to recover from extra workouts and won’t be able to successfully build the muscle we’re looking for unless we rest on our off days. She also pointed out that with this few calories coming in, we may just lose muscle since there is not much else around for fuel.

I looked this up and found this blog, which is super helpful. Check out his post, “How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle.” I’ll definitely be using this blog as a resource in the future!

Tomorrow is our halfway weigh-in and body fat measurement. I’ll post results!

This week I’ll also share some of the things I’ve been eating that have made our success and happiness thus far possible.

6 Week Challenge: Week 1

So, I asked the trainer on the night of the first day about the diet — the super low calories, the lack of fat… should I be concerned? She kind of brushed me off but also said that I need to trust her. Which, I guess was a pretty good thing to say. Although if this harms me I’ll be talking about it all over so hopefully she’s confident.

Even better would have been if she had given me some actual information on just how super-low-fat could be safe for six weeks, or super-low-calorie for that matter. She’s not a dietician… this is a standardized Herbalife plan.

In the end I have decided to take it day by day and see how I feel, and add a serving of healthy fat if/when I feel I need it. So far I have done that once, on Day Two. I woke up with a headache, feeling faint and dizzy, and nauseated. I felt that way until about noon. I had a sort of healthy treat in the fridge at work — one of these Snickaroos by Little Tucker — and I decided to eat that in the afternoon. PS. My calories and fat still came in super low.

In general, I’ve been coming in around 700-900 net calories per day (uh… what?) and working out almost every day. I did workouts at the gym where the challenge is four days this week, went for a run one day and then on my rest day I did a restorative yoga class. The other day was the day we started, when I did not work out.

Weirdly, though, I have been feeling just fine. Not necessarily better than usual, but no worse. I haven’t lost my ability to focus, I haven’t felt hungry or faint, and I haven’t had any terrible cravings or anything. And, I’m feeling motivated to move and be healthy, so that’s a plus.

What Have I Been Eating?

Splitting up the portions to create different meal and snack options has been key. I split the huge protein requirement for breakfast and usually have egg whites with veggies and cottage cheese all cooked up together, and then some yogurt with berries, stevia, vanilla, cinnamon and a bit of vanilla protein powder sprinkled on top (I tried mixing a bunch in but that was gross and gritty). Some days I save some berries (which count as a carb) and blend them up with my first protein shake for a different taste. On the days when I’m sick of that breakfast I have some chicken or turkey, whatever leftover veggies we have and half an apple.

Lunches have mostly been spinach salad with meat on top and some rice or quinoa, but I’ve also had rice and beans with ground beef on the side. The veggies are not hard for me at lunch as I generally just roast something yummy like broccoli. Lettuce wraps with whichever meat I have on hand, and fresh salsa have also been great.

Dinners are just a protein and a veggie so that’s usually pretty simple with just whatever meat and veggie I can come up with, cooked very simply.

Results, Week 1

Well, I’m sore, I can tell you that. Arnica cream, epsom salt baths and wintergreen essential oil have been my very good (and surprisingly effective) friends.

One thing that surprised me was that when I went for a run on Thursday afternoon, it felt pretty good. I told myself to just try, and go as far as I could, knowing that I likely wouldn’t make it far since I was so sore. But then it felt pretty easy and I just went the full 4 km! I mean, I walk for a minute every kilometre because I am admittedly out of shape but still. I was happy it felt good.

I ended up losing two pounds this week. I wish I knew if I have lost any body fat. I swear my butt feels harder already though.

6 Week Challenge: Day 1

Ah, here we are. The first official day of this six week challenge. It helps to think of it as SIX. Six weeks. That’s not so much. One week at a time. One day at a time.

I don’t mean to be dramatic. At 5 pm, I’m feeling pretty okay. I know I’ll make it through somehow, but I am becoming less and less impressed with this eating plan.

Frankly, it’s dumb.

No oils or fats for six weeks? Note to self — research the effects of short term fat restriction on brain function. Will I become anxious? Will it affect my sleep? Will I be able to focus at work? If not, I’ll be adding a tablespoon of hemp seeds to my non-fat (blergh) yogurt.

Okay so when she showed us the plan, I immediately commented that I would not do well without fats. Obviously there is a bit of fat in lean meats, but it’s looking like my Day One macros will come in at 5% fat.

Yeah, that’s too low. I normally eat about 30% per day fat (haha, that matches my body! Oops!) and I’m happy with that. That means nuts, seeds, avocados, cheese… all the good stuff. This is actually pretty integral to my health IMO.

Also, because I could tell that this would be very low calorie, I decided to track everything in My Fitness Pal.

Hoo boy. I put all my meals and the protein shakes for day one into the app and before any calorie burn, it totalled around 1100 calories.

Oh, oh boy. When I want to lose a little weight, I aim for 1700-1800 NET calories, as in after I account for workouts. That means I eat about 2200 calories and then my workout is subtracted from that. And I lose weight that way. Eating just over 1000 calories per day and doing 45 minute HIIT workouts could potentially put my health at risk.

So, this is where we’re at now. I am following the plan to the letter for today and then reassessing. I will likely add some vegetables because this is coming out to about 4-5 servings of produce for the entire day which is just sad considering that’s one of the only things I can eat.

How did today go?

I will definitely be tweaking the layout of the meal plan a bit, splitting servings and moving them around a little. A cup and a half of plain yogurt or 6 egg whites at breakfast is just… ew. No thanks. I don’t care how good you are with food, there’s no saving that.

And protein shakes? So, that’s not something I’ve ever consumed. I do prefer vegetables, nuts, seeds, cheese, beans… I had one on the way to the bus today and yuck. Not the best.

My meals today were (keep in mind I split the servings and moved them around): at 9 am, 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water followed by 1/4 of an apple (that’s ludicrous… seriously) with a big mug of unsweetened licorice tea; at 10 am, 3/4 cup egg whites from a carton, scrambled with cajun seasoning… but I added too much and it was salty so not only were these SCRAMBLED EGG WHITES (gross), they were too salty with 1 cup of broiled broccoli (seasoned with ACV, soy sauce, garlic and crushed chilies); at 11:30 am, a protein shake, blech; at 2 pm, 1/2 cup quinoa, 6 oz chicken breast, 1/2 cup spinach, 6 cherry tomatoes, chopped peppers, all topped with sea salt and lemon juice and soy sauce — this was good; and dinner was haddock, baked with seasoning on top, and a spinach salad with lemon juice. Not the best, but not the absolute worst.

Also had my first 45 minute HIIT circuit workout. It was definitely hard, but no harder than I expected it to be. Lots of skipping, jump squats, throwing a medicine ball on the ground… I had to stop quite a bit but I look forward to when these moves get easier.

Successes & Tweaks

Today I printed off two calendar pages to cover the six weeks. I numbered today Day 1, and counted up from there on each day until final weigh-in (November 24). Then I counted from 0 back up moving backwards from the final weigh-in so I can see how many days I have left. I can use this calendar to cross off each day as I survive them, and make notes of interest such as net calories, noteworthy things like mishaps or workouts, and my weight.

Also, I’ll be adding plain cocoa to my shakes tomorrow.

The Six Week Fitness Challenge: The Details

All right, so we got the plan. It consists of two simple parts: diet and exercise. That’s fine. Keep it simple!

For exercise, we must do at least three workouts per week at Deb’s gym. These are HIIT, bootcamp or cardio drumming (fun!) classes… but, weirdly, the HIIT classes are 45 minutes long. I would expect them to be 20-30 minutes long. We have our first HIIT class tonight, so I’ll report back on that. There is a 30 minute HIIT option on the schedule but it’s for people on their lunch break.

At least I hope I’ll be able to do plyometric workouts at home after this. I’ve been hesitant because I felt I needed to build up to them as my strength isn’t stellar currently, but I’ve never gotten around to making a plan to do so.

We can also do a fourth workout at her gym at no charge, which we will definitely be doing because dammit, we are getting our money back.

(Ha, have I set up a completely unhealthy dynamic here yet? Yeah. I know. At this point I’m fancying myself as a Morgan Spurlock-type character, sacrificing my body to research for the sake of curiosity.)

Deb also encourages us to do two to three more workouts on our “off” days, for a total of six workouts each week. The other day is a rest day. This matches what I was hoping to do, with running, hiking, swimming or yoga on the “off” days and a walk or gentle yoga class on our actual rest day.

Now. The meal plan. This is not what I had hoped. I hadn’t been too worried because I knew it would be high protein and beyond that I expected it to meet fairly regulation nutritional guidelines. But no.

Now, I feel like I could get in trouble for like, sharing a photo of the plan or something (it seems to be “proprietary info”) but simply put, it’s a diet for people training to be in body competitions. Body building… bikini body… that sort of thing. You know — egg whites and spinach.

What I get to eat in a day is:

Breakfast: “1 serving” of protein (6 egg whites; 1.5 cups of fat-free, unsweetened Greek yogurt; or any of the other allowable proteins like lean meats, cottage cheese or protein powder); 1 carb (which she translates to half a piece of fruit; 3/4 cup berries, 1/2 cup of rice or quinoa etc, 3/4 cup sweet potato or a few other options); 1 veg (not allowed? Peas, carrots, corn, squash (sob), zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, beets).

Lunch: Same

Dinner: 1 protein, 1 veg

The proteins include 6 oz of chicken breast, lean turkey breast, pork tenderloin, 96% lean ground beef, white fish like cod or tilapia, and bison burgers.

Oh, and two snacks per day, which are, specifically, protein shakes. This trainer sells protein shakes of a specific brand. We did not buy those (although I’m sure they’re fine). I bought some vegan vanilla protein powder at Costco. Mmm, artificial sweeteners!

When I first looked at the plan I thought, No big deal, I can do this. I’ve been on a partial elimination diet for a few weeks to figure out some food sensitivities and I’ve done the candida cleanse a couple times before, so I’ve become fairly comfortable with working within strict parameters and making the best of it.

Then we went shopping at Costco.

Then we came home and had dinner. And I realized that there were no nuts or seeds on the list. No avocado. Not even one drop of oil for six weeks. I started to feel very skeptical.

In my next post, I’ll go over day one, and what I’ve already decided about this meal plan… and how I’m going to handle the next six weeks without forfeiting my money.

Dissecting The Six-Week Fitness Challenge: Intro

When the “free fitness challenge” from a local trainer popped up on Facebook, it piqued our interest immediately. Of course we knew it wouldn’t be without a catch, but the description explained that the reason she could do it for free was for the internet reviews, the use of your before and after photos and because it worked great as marketing and a lot of people choose to stay on at the gym afterward.

Andi (my partner) and I have both always been interested in fitness and nutrition, and neither of us has been really happy with our health or fitness for a few years now. The cumulative effects of stress, lack of sleep, enjoying our wine and of course, not always eating really nutrient dense foods (or, ahem, chicken nuggets for days when needed to survive).

Because Andi has an athletic background (in roller derby and kickboxing) and I’ve been fascinated by nutrition and fitness for years, we felt pretty well equipped to determine whether this challenge would be a good fit for us, so we booked a consultation.

So here’s the deal. You pay a $500 deposit. If you meet the goals set out by the trainer, at the end of six weeks you get all your money back. If you do not, she keeps your $500 but will put it toward a membership or classes at the gym.

Neither of us has $500 to lose (not even close). But we did our research and weighed the risks and decided to go for it. We both know that our body type responds well to exercise and we could likely meet the goals fairly easily, and we looked forward to the kick in the butt to hopefully get fired up about being active and fit again, finally.

Here are the goals you have to meet to get your money back:

  1. Attend 3-4 workouts per week at her gym.
  2. Write two online reviews upon completion of the program.
  3. Let her use your before and after photos.
  4. Lose 6% of your body fat in the six weeks.

Uh… that last one though? We felt confident about the rest as those are within our control, but the last one depends on how good her plan is.

After deliberating for a few days and doing a lot of digging online to figure out whether 6% body fat loss in six weeks was even possible or advisable, we decided to go ahead with it (with the caveat that I would not commit if I came in at less than 27% body fat to start, as I don’t want to go below 20% and felt I’d be less likely to have success with the challenge if I started out lower than 27%).

Well, I came out at 30.3% body fat, so I was safe in that regard. Overall my health metrics are pretty decent: a visceral fat rating of 4 (fairly healthy, could be better), metabolic age of 35 and a resting heart rate of about 56 beats per minute. I’ll also be checking my blood pressure to start as well as some metrics like squats per minute, max pushups, balance and flexibility measurements and my average pace per kilometre when I run. All of this will allow me to see the results from this challenge.

Tune in to the next post to see just what Deb (our trainer) has prescribed for exercise and a meal plan! I’m going to be picking this a part a bit day by day, as I have to say I was a little shocked at the meal plan in particular.

Five Years

Five years.

Five years since my dream girl with the unreal green eyes agreed to kiss a married woman, if that woman was me. Five years since we were so awkward together for two weeks until we finally kiss & came out with our feelings.

What an amazing thing, to find out that the thing you’ve been hoping, wishing, praying for, for so long — she’s been hoping and wishing and praying for, too.

How incredibly lucky to find out that the flirting wasn’t all in your head. To learn that she loves you back.

Nights in the kitchen learning our own language, laughing so hard we’re rolling on the floor.

And then in bed, holding her tight as my baby spoon, aware that I’ll lose her when she finds her forever.

I was so angry when he stepped in, inserted himself, appeared, to interfere.

So angry. I cried every day for a month when they told me they both wanted to try for a triad.

To me this meant I would lose them both, and how could I survive losing them both when I couldn’t imagine life without both of them?

She said she wondered if this was a way we could actually last, long-term.

He said he felt like this was the right thing to do.

I’ve always trusted his “feelings,” right from day one, when he asked me to move to Vancouver to live with him.

I laughed in his face and said, “That’ll be awkward when we break up,” and he said, “I have a feeling we won’t.” And something made me trust him.

I don’t know if he was right or if he’s just stubborn, but I don’t think we’re going to break up.

When he said he felt like the triad was the right thing to do, I wanted to punch him right in his face. But I also knew I could hold him to that.

I don’t know if we’re all stubborn, or if we really are right together. Maybe a combination of both.

When Andi and I had been together about two months — the first time the three of us hung out together — she joked that she could commit to me for ten years. Seizing the opportunity, I told her I was holding her to it.

We’re halfway there.

 

 

(Oh yeah, I’m writing a book about triads. You can find out more about that here.)

Bird Spirit Guide: Waxwings

This is the long-awaited second post in my Birds as Spirit Guides series. The first was about the Brown Creeper.

Image from whatbird.com, my favourite online bird identification tool. Check it out!

Yesterday, on my run, I saw a museum of waxwings (Bohemian, I think) in a tree while I was out running in the Weaselhead, a beautiful natural area here in Calgary. That’s right, a group of Waxwings is called a “museum” or an “earfull” but given that these birds were completely silent, I’m using the former here.

I don’t know much about waxwings aside from the fact that they’re gorgeous to look at (I’m sure my mom has taught me much more about them that I’ve subsequently forgotten), but this appearance seemed auspicious and I felt they would be a great next instalment in this series.

Well, I was not disappointed. The really wonderful thing about these birds is their social structure and practices. No matter where you read about waxwings, one thing that is sure to be mentioned is their deeply ingrained sharing customs. From an early age, they begin practicing sharing with one another. They eat mainly red berries and they love to pass them on. I read one account that said sometimes a group of the birds will sit lined up, the first one with a berry in its beak, and it will pass that berry to the next bird, who will pass it to the next, and so on to the end of the line. Their mating ritual also involves the male passing a berry to the female, her passing it back to him, and so on until she finally accepts it. From this, I would suggest that if you see a waxwing (or a museum of them!), it may be a reminder to give selflessly and not to hoard what you are fortunate enough to have.

Judy at Angels and Ancestors (who, it looks like, is also in Calgary!), writes that, “Waxwing teaches lessons around going beyond the physical demands of the body (food and shelter needs found in the base chakra) and speaks to the joy of belonging, for they belong in flocks and pairs (which is what the second and third chakras, orange and yellow in color are about), and Waxwing sings of the sweetness of life.” 

I also love that numerous entries made mention of their gender equality, with the males and females being very similar in size, with the same plumage, and sharing feeding of their young.

One very funny fact about Waxwings is that sometimes they will eat fermented berries, get drunk, and lose the ability to fly for a while. They have a reputation as party birds!

Seeing the waxwings has reminded me to reflect on my family — both blood, and chosen — and to remember to be grateful for all the amazing people in my life. I can take a look at whether I am sharing and giving without expectation. And while I may sometimes choose to take this sighting as a reminder to lighten up and have some fun, I think I spent a bit too much time on social pursuits last week, so I’m actually taking this as a reminder to slow down and not eat so many fermented berries that it prevents me from flying!

Welcome to Adulting Camp: Which Side Are You On?

“Like a Boss” vs. “Adulting is Hard”: Life in the Modern World

If you believe social media, which you’ll say you don’t but you and I both know that you spend at least three hours a day on there so who are you kidding, how could you not internalize it all?, you likely fall into one of two camps.

The first is Camp Type “A,” where campers frequently shout “Like a boss!!” while fist pumping; live life by bullet journals or tidily organized To Do lists; and probably stay up all night drinking caffeinated gin while sewing their kid’s school play costume with one hand, freelancing with the other and, if they’re really good, having an orgasm at the same time.

The second is Camp Adulting is Hard, and their motto is “Nope.” They’re uncomfortably honest about their failing relationship, the fact that they have literally never gotten their kid to school on time, how early in the day they open the wine bottle, and how disgusting their bathroom is. Continue reading