Run For Your Life (literally, it seems)

runninglegs

My take-away: Not exercising is way more damaging to health than being fat. Don’t exercise to get thin; exercise to get strong. Strong is healthy at any size.

So while reading one of my favorite blogs, I ran across an article from the Los Angeles Times Science Section claims that if you can run for 5 minutes a day, you may add years to your life.  The article is actually based on a real scientific study (unlike many Internet articles) from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which found that running had a positive impact on your life expectancy.

Put another way, non-runners were 24% more likely than runners to die during the study period. In fact, the mortality risk associated with not running was greater than the mortality risk associated with being overweight or obese (16%), having a family history of cardiovascular disease (20%), or having high cholesterol (6%).

Interestingly enough, you don’t have to be very fast or run very far: According to the study, just running 30-50 minutes per week made a big difference. Also, 15 minutes of brisk walking had a similar positive effect.

Of course this is just one study, and there are limits (“Most of the adults who were tracked were college-educated, middle-class or upper-middle-class whites.”) but it does seem to support some of the other research I’ve been seeing and supporting the getting healthy at every size campaign that many promote. (Not to be confused with Size Acceptance, which is also important).

I did find another study that said you can overdo it; high-mileage runners (over 3 hours per week) have shorter lifespans, so that’s something to keep in mind. I would like to see more studies like this, and to expand the studies to see if swimming, biking, or other forms of exercise make such a difference.

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Help Me: Hydration

HydrationI have to start by saying I haven’t been blogging lately and I’m not sure why. Work is busy, but not excessively so, I haven’t fallen off my exercise or food program (so I’m not in hiding). And my personal life is pretty much the same as it ever was. I guess I just haven’t been too inspired. Anyway, I’m going to try a little harder not to take time off. I lose all my readers when I do.

Anyway, the topic of the day is hydration. This is becoming an issue on my runs, due to a combination of my runs getting longer and the weather getting hotter and more humid. The first time I really noticed it was a couple of weeks ago, running at the beach. It is a 4 mile run and I really never stop for water on route, although there are plenty of places to stop. This day was in the low 90s and by the time I got to the 2 mile mark I was done. I stopped several times for water and only made it another mile before deciding to walk the rest.

After that I focused on running in later in the evening (when it is cooler and the sun isn’t beating on me) and making sure I had places to stop for water on the way. When I ran 6 miles for the first time I was worried about dehydration, but the place I run is very shady and has a water fountain about 3 miles away, so I thought it would be fine. Run 3 miles, stop and drink, run 3 miles back.

SquirrelYeah, that worked about as well as it sounds. It was a hot and humid day and I was sooooo thirsty by the time I got to the 3 mile mark that I practically fell into the fountain, drinking for all I was worth.  I also splashed water all over my arms and face just trying to cool off. Then I turned around to run back and felt a stitch in my side, which lasted almost a mile. By the time I started feeling better, I realized I was thirsty again. I probably would have walked back, but I just wanted to get back to the car that had water in it, so I ran and ran. Later that night I felt nauseous. Even though I drank a lot after, the dehydration got to me.

I’m still a newbie in the running world, so I started asking for advice. No one could tell me how much I should be drinking, but I did get advice such as:

  • Carry a water bottle – So I already carry my phone (for music and GPS), which is quite enough. On top of which, how big of a bottle?
  • They have these gels you can carry – Despite extensive internet research, I could find energy gels, but nothing for hydration, specifically
  • Just run in a circle and leave your water at the side – I did do this a few times, but I really hate running in circles. My best runs are where I just go out until I can’t go any more and then I turn around and come back.
This is a self of my water bottle. (Best shot I could manage, sorry).

This is a selfie of my water bottle. (Best shot I could manage, sorry). I really like the cap because you just suck and water comes out, but it doesn’t splash out while you run.

Some of my research led me to various hydration belts and packs and I figured that might be the way to go. My sister has a iPhone belt she loves, so I bought that and a small plastic bottle that clips onto a belt and yesterday gave that a try. I froze the water in the bottle before the run, so that it would be nice and cold. It wasn’t particularly hot yesterday (low 80s), but I found that by taking small sips every mile, rather than guzzling water after I was over-thirsty was much better. The bottles weren’t as cumbersome as I had feared, but I think I will need more bottles for longer runs.

Please, any suggestions for hydration that I haven’t thought of, or any advice about how to best hydrate on longer runs is appreciated.

Before and After Pics

So I get asked a lot if I have before and after pics. And I always think “before what? after what?” Because of course this life is a continuous journey. There is no stop and start, except the first and last one. Yesterday is before. So is last week. Or last month.

I know that when they ask this they are thinking about before I started on my food plan, but what does that mean?

I’m going to see a doctor next week that I haven’t seen before my 2/2013 operation.  I know she will be pleased that I’ve lost weight, but she won’t know how much because since I last saw her I gained about 40 pounds and then lost over 70. In her eyes, I’ve lost about 30 lbs, but that is just a tiny part of the picture.

And then in September, I’m going to a high school reunion. Now that’s a funny one. I’m about 15 lbs heavier than I was when I graduated high school. I’m about 30 lbs less than my 10 year reunion. About 30 lbs heavier than my 20 year reunion. About 15 lbs less than my 25 reunion. You know what is funny and sad: That I remember my approximate weight for each reunion. What a waste of brain cells. So are people going to look at me and think “Wow, she got fat” or “Wow, she got fit?” I guess it depends on what version of me they remember. Actually, chances are they are going to be thinking about themselves and if they look fat, or bald, or old, or whatever.

My before pic. Yes, rocking' the double chin, but I make it look good.

My before pic. Yes, rocking’ the double chin, but I make it look good.

My after shot is actually a projection. I'm not there yet, but someday...

My after shot is actually a projection. I’m not there yet, but someday…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you think nailing down a before is hard, how will I ever come up with an after? Obviously I would like to freeze time at that most perfect moment of fitness, when I’m at my lowest weight, but my best strength. How will I know when I get there? And what about the minute after that? And the day after that? And the month or year after that? I’ve lost over 100 lbs before. It didn’t make me happier. It didn’t last.

Here’s the thing: There is no after. There is no before. There is only now. I can only change the decisions I’m making now. Do I run or not? Do I make sure I eat my breakfast or not? Do I have popcorn and beer for dinner or not? (It’s a thing, really)

I can’t change what I did or didn’t do yesterday. That is done. I can only plan for what I want to do or not do tomorrow, but until tomorrow is now, I can’t know if I stuck to my plan or not. The only thing I can change is right now. This minute. Today.

The Shame Game

First, read this lovely blog post:

Unashamedly, Unapologetically FAT – a response to Linda Kelsey.

If you want more on this topic, read Dances with Fat: Unapologetically Fat

selfloveBoth authors do a great job at refuting an utterly shamefully article written by Linda Kelsey. I’m not linking to the original article, because I don’t promote hate. If you choose to read the original, be warned. It is ghastly and upsetting.

Linda’s original article is  so out of touch with reality that at first I thought it was satire. Her shock that three women would have the nerve to share a bag of crisps was so outrageous that I laughed before realizing she wasn’t kidding.  The biggest crock is that she thinks shaming fat people will make them not want to be fat any more and that she is being brave to say what no one wants to say. Sorry, Linda. Everyone says what you say. They are just wrong.

There is so much evidence that diets don’t work and that yo-yo dieting is more harmful to health than fat. There is no evidence that says making people feel bad about themselves improves their quality of life.

 

Recovery

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading!

First, let me start by saying you are reading my 100th blog post. I started this blog in 2010, and was very active for a while, but then kind of dwindled down to one post a month and then one post a year… Until I started up this past December with renewed vigor and excitement. I’ve posted more in the past 7 months than the previous 3 years put together. And, I truly appreciate everyone who bothers to read my musing.

I have one close friend (IRL) who surprised me recently by telling me that he reads every post. He rarely likes or comments but he is a faithful reader. He has been with me through all my ups and downs, when I took Fen-Phen, when I lost over 100 lbs on Weight Watchers, when I gained the 100 back and then some, and for all the “diets” and exercise programs over my lifetime.  “So what makes this different?” he asked me the other day, and I had to think about it for a minute.

I told him that the fundamental difference that I could see was that this wasn’t about losing weight, or fitting into a size, or any of my old goals. I really was just trying to break free from a lifetime of being controlled by food. I talked to him about the way I came up with my new food plan and how over time I have managed to be more in control. I talked about these steps I’ve taken to get here: the emphasis on self-love, my new approach to exercise, and the ways I deal with food. I also told him how I never, ever go hungry any more. I make sure I’m always nourished and this has had so many positive side effects.

I don't have a 12-step program. It's more like 40 steps. And I keep going up and down the same ones.

I don’t have a 12-step program. It’s more like 40 steps. And I keep going up and down the same ones.

And after listening for a bit he said, “It sounds like you are in recovery.” After thinking for a minute I replied, “Yes, yes I guess I am in recovery.” My issues with food are very much an addiction. I have had to learn new patterns of dealing with food, because unlike other addictions, you can’t go “Cold Turkey” with food (unless starving is part of your game plan).  I’m not necessarily doing a 12-step program, I have had what I call mini-awakenings on my journey which are just as critical to my recovery.

Here’s the thing about recovery: there is no end. It isn’t like at some point I’m going to reach a place where I can go back to normal food, any more than an alcoholic can have one or two social drinks or a smoker can have one cigarette at a party (believe, me I know how that story ends).  Sure, it might work sometimes. Or for a while. But little by little the old habits come back and the next thing you know you are eating Ben & Jerry’s by the pint and having a bag of Sour Cream & Onion Ruffles for dinner. Wait, what?

The line between in control and out of control is so thin as to be almost invisible. I have my safety foods (yogurt, almonds, rice & beans) and my splurge foods (peanut butter, frozen yogurt, pea soup, popcorn). When I eat these foods I do so without anxiety and without really thinking. They are pre-measured, contained, and manageable.

But then there are the questionable foods… Like  the fish I had the other night. The menu said pan-seared tilapia, but when it came it was breaded with nuts. Or the pizza my daughter and I made the other day (that’s a whole other post). These fall outside the program, but are they allowed? Do they follow the rules? There is an anxiety with each food decision. Will this choice send me into a food spiral I can’t climb out of? Or will it just be a little diversion to an otherwise bland and repetitive food program? When have I strayed too far?

That’s the problem with coming up with your own recovery program. There’s no guide-book or list of rules to follow. You have to make up your own rules and figure out if they are working.

Not too cocky, now…

So I saw this on one of the blogs I follow:

Now, in the past this is where I would have gotten cocky and said ok let’s make this mile portion of the goal more difficult. Then something would happen and I would not be able to do as well as I thought I would, I would get discouraged and then give up and end up barely missing my original goal.

Accept the days when running seems impossible; Embrace the days when running seems effortless.

Or as I like to call it, yesterday and today.

And this little thought has been niggling at me since I read it. And when something starts niggling, I just have to write about it.

Yesterday when I ran everything hurt. My ankles. My knees. My back.  It was a tough run and I pushed just to get through it. By contrast, today’s run was great. My first two miles were two of my fastest ever. And just for fun, I ran another two, more slowly, just because I was feeling so darn good.

On days like today I start thinking that my 3,000,000 step goal is too low. Or my 8,000 steps per day is too low. Ha! I can easily do 4,000,000 steps this year, or 10,000 steps per day. I can run every day. And faster. And farther. And….

And that is where I get myself into trouble.  I know from experience that  if I overdo it, I’m going to hurt myself and set myself back. I try to remember how far I’ve come. Right now I’m running better than I ever have, in my entire life. I feel good about it. I enjoy it more. But there is that lurking risk of injury just waiting at the periphery. So I need to settle back, and push myself just enough but not too much. And for this reason, I’m not changing my goal.

At least not now. If I hit 3,000,000 steps in November, or even October, I can always change my goal then. Or not. Or I can come up with a brand new goal. Right now, the important thing is that I’m going to do those 3,000,000 steps, and the 12,000 steps I did today just got added into the pile.

1.5 Million and Counting

So in June I hit a milestone in my 3,000,000 step challenge: I have walked over 1.5 million steps so far this year. This puts me solidly halfway to my goal, with half the year gone. There were times I wondered if I was going to make it, but now that I’m halfway there, I feel pretty confident.  May, of course, was my turn around month, and I didn’t quite do as many steps in June as I did in May, but I came pretty close and easily bested my 250,000 steps per month goal:

june steps

I walked over 330,000 steps, which averages to 11,000 steps per day.  This is equivalent to 150 miles.  Of these, I only ran 30 miles which is less than the last two months. I’m not sure why that happened, because I felt like I was running farther, but I guess not as frequently. My best day was June 10. I took over 19,000 steps that day. I had 25 days where I walked over 8,000 steps, 20 of which I walked over 10,000 and had a record 7 days with over 14,000 steps. All good.

stepsthrujune

 

I wish I could run a report to see how many of these days I did the bulk of my steps after 10 pm, because I’m pretty sure that there must be at least 10-15 days that I didn’t even get to my steps until the wee hours. Sometimes it was family obligations that kept me busy. Other times it was work that kept me sedentary until I could finally break away. More frequently it was the combination of the two. If I didn’t have this goal in mind, there would have been plenty of opportunities to see “Screw it” and not bother with walking or running. Knowing I have to report my monthly progress, and the inner desire to meet a challenge I set for myself kept me motivated. And most of the time, once I got out there I was glad I did.

Other people are working towards running races or marathons or single day events, but my goal works for me. I know that come December, I’m going to want to see my 3,000,000 steps behind me.

Body Positive Video

Love, love, love this video that a friend posted on my FB.  As I get closer and closer to 50 I have to face up to how my body has been changing. I’m healthier now than I have ever been in my life. Even at my thinnest, I could never have run 4 or 5 miles. Even in my teen years I never ate this well or felt this strong. At the same time, there are lines in my face that were never there before, and as I lose weight my skin doesn’t bounce back the way it once might have. But I actually like how these things look on me.  I feel like the survivor that I am, something I never had a sense of in my younger life.

I’ve seen a few  other body positive YouTube videos over the past couple weeks, but haven’t posted them for one reason or another. For example, Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, which is cute and catchy, but I feel has some negative “anti-skinny” sentiments. It is just as wrong for women of size to put down women of smaller sizes as is the reverse. The Militant Baker says it best, “Bodies rest at different weights naturally; some of us are small and some are large. Simply a fact of life…the harm comes from thinking that they must to be found worthy and the journey that follows. The journey paved with failure, self loathing, perceived inadequacy and more.”

Donnalou Steven’s Older Ladies  is different, in my opinion, because it never puts down the opposite. Instead, it celebrates our bodies changing due to age, something we all have to deal with at some point. I love how many different bodies she has in her videos, and how lovely they all are.  Throughout the song she celebrates the features that make her who she is now (grey hair, chicken neck, saggy skin) and actually loves those features on herself without taking away from who she was in a younger version. I also just love the repeating verse, “If that’s the reason that you don’t love me then maybe that’s not love!”

Update:

I just found this lovely cover of Meghan Trainor’s video. Ok, so the recording is a little shaky and the tempo just a bit slow, but the young lady has a lovely voice and she really cleans up the lyrics beautifully. (See Meghan, it wasn’t so hard). I also love her responses to the negative comments that of course she received. She is respectful and calm, but maintains her position. Nice work!