how I learned to love the elliptical and eat chocolate every day

elliptical1I work out every day. Every. Damn. Day. Some people love to exercise. I’m not one of those people. But despite my dread, I push myself to it anyhow, because I know it makes me stronger, gets my metabolism moving, and it allows me to eat a Reese’s in peace.

In the summer, I swim — great for you all around, and better for my back  — but in this long, bleak, frozen winter of our discontent, I’m forced into the gym. I use the bike a lot, and I’ve recently started getting used to the elliptical. Mind you, the first time I climbed onto that medieval torture device, after 30 seconds I wanted to confess to being a heretic so I could burn at the stake instead. But after a few more tries I got the hang of it and I’m building up to spending half my work out that way.

This isn’t my first time to the rodeo. I’ve done this before. But I think I didn’t keep it off because I hadn’t learned moderation. I got in the low-cal zone and I denied myself *everything*, and when I was done (there’s a mistake right there) and fell off the wagon, I fell big time. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m being more reasonable with myself this time. If we constantly deny ourselves, we’re guaranteeing that we’ll eventually fail. Because you’re never “done”. It’s never over. Since this is it for the rest of my life, I need eat responsibly but not miserably if I’m going to succeed.

There are a lot of people who’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong, this way. I use MyFitnessPal and it’s a great app, but I don’t spend a lot of time in the discussion forums. It can be kind of crazypants judgy in there. “Hey look at me” syndrome is alive and well in weight loss communities. Look at how fast I’m losing, look at how under calorie goal I am, look at me, look at me, look at me. You can get an inferiority complex really easily. Just remember, it’s not a race. Or if it is, it’s one the tortoise is going to win in the end, not the hare.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I do, and what works for me. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s not all that hard, either, once you set your mind to it:

Count all your calories. All of them. It’s boring, by the way, just so you know. Tedious. But do it. Exercise often. Also potentially tedious. Try podcasts, or audiobooks, or Netflix. Eat lots of veggies and fiber but eat the things you like, too, just in moderation. A Hershey’s kiss has 22 calories — if you need a sweet treat, just have a couple of those. Be kind to yourself. Don’t get on the scale too often (too bad I don’t listen to my own advice on that one). The number will go down, over a period of time, but not all at once. And give yourself a day off, now and then, and enjoy yourself. Enjoy food, enjoy a break from vigilance. Then rinse, reuse, and repeat.

day 200 and counting

hershey-bar-nutrition-factsI’ve been dieting — counting calories, eating healthier, embracing a healthier lifestyle, sacrificing calories to Zuul, whatever you want to call it — for 200 days now. Two hundred portion-limited, fun filled days. Just 15,000 or so to go.

It’s actually been going well. I’ve lost 39-ish pounds as of today, and mostly it’s been not too awful. We’ve got a lot of good recipes for our dinner rotation, and we’ve found a few takeout places with lower-calories options, when we need a break from cooking. I exercise every day and I’m looking forward to going back to the pool in the summer. But… the holidays aren’t entirely easy. Or the weekends. Or the days in between. And maybe it’s just the realization, this time around, that it’s never going to be over, really. You can’t just cut calories for a month or a year or two, lose the weight, and then go back to eating whatever you want. There is no eating whatever you want, not really ever again. (Unless I get to my 80s, in which case, you know, screw it, I’m throwing caution to the winds.)

I take breaks for special occasions — Thanksgiving, Christmas, our anniversary. I know it helps to take a break from the regimen every now and then; if you deprive yourself all the time, sooner or later you’re going to hit a wall and lose your mojo. But special occasions have to be special — you have to pick and choose, and not turn every weekend into a chance to cheat. The holidays really are hard. No one has a weight problem because they indulge on Christmas Day. It’s when you graze happily through the entire holiday season that you get into trouble. I’ve always found it hard to stick to a diet when you work in an office, too. It’s like every time you turn around someone is bringing in donuts, ordering out for lunch, bringing in cake. Ah, cake… sorry, I just drooled on the keyboard a little there.

I know it’s worth it. I’m getting healthier all the time. When we go on our cruise next year I’m going to be in good shape and feel a lot better about myself, physically and mentally. These are good things and good goals. Still, though. Too often it feels like the world is one big gooey-cheesy-chocolately-crispy-fried wonderland that I have to say “No, thank you” to, when what I really want to do is yell, “Yes, please!” as I grab seconds.

all good things come to an end

IMG_1507… including summer.

It’s not officially over yet, but with August coming to a close and the fall upon us, schools re-opening and buses back on the streets, we’re getting there. For me, summer is at an end because our pool closes this week.

This was the first summer of my life that I had a pool of my own — well, it belongs to the complex we live in, so sadly we have to share it, but you get what I mean. Every other year I’ve been a sporadic swimmer at best, sometimes getting to a pool only once or twice, sometimes not at all. (Beach? In Buffalo? Surely you jest.) But this year, it was every possible day for the entire summer. Am I sad to see it end? Yes… and no.

I like the pool, I do. It’s great for cooling off, though I’m also partial to central air for that, and it wasn’t that hot of a summer to begin with. I like having friends over to the pool, and I like hanging out there with Dave and our cousin Adam. I freely admit I don’t always like the other people, not when they’re rude, or loud, or just annoying. The Real Housewives of Long Island can be funny, but they can also be nauseating. And I’m huge fan of babies in the pool — they’re darn cute in those swimmie-contraptions they have these days, they look like Baby Pool Armor, and they always seem to be having such a blast — but I am not quite as fond of preteens playing endless games of “toothpaste” and jumping in the pool right on top of my head.

I did like the exercise more than I’ve liked any other exercise I’ve done in my life. I swam laps all summer, almost every day, working my way up to 30 a day. I would have liked to do more, but I’ll keep at it next summer. I also discovered I can float effortlessly and can tread water apparently forever (I got bored after 15 minutes and stopped, but don’t think the end was anywhere near), so if we’re ever on the Titanic, Dave can just hang onto me and we’re set.

I won’t miss the chlorine, though. I mean, god knows it’s necessary (all those kids, and no one ever gets out and goes into the bathroom in the clubhouse — you do the math), but the smell is icky. Every day when I get home Fred sniffs my hand disdainfully, and doesn’t warm up until I’ve had a chance to shower. My hair could do without the chemicals, too.

Overall, it was a good summer at the pool, but I confess I’m looking forward to a nice, long, harvesty autumn, and even a cozy warm winter by the fireplace, snug at home.