Losing weight is easy, right?

So what do you think? Is losing weight easy? 

The one conclusion I have from my years of popular research and personal experience is that the science of weight loss is complicated.

On the one hand, you have the calories in/calories out folks who say weight loss is a matter of math. Burn more calories than you take in over a period of time, and you’ll lose weight. On the fingers of the other hand, you have the folks with fringe beliefs. There are the Paleo and Primal folks that follow a diet based on what our ancestors would have eaten thousands of years ago. Lots of animal protein, fats, non-starchy vegetables, a little fruit, some nuts and dairy, and no grains. You’ve got the vegan crowd. Plant-based foods only. No animal products at all. You’ve got the Weight Watchers followers that subscribe to the ever-evolving WW plan which claims to be based on the latest nutritional science. There’s the South Beach and Akin diets which now seem old school in light of the trendier Dukan diet. We can’t forget the French Women Don’t Get Fat hype, nor the Eat Right for Your Type diet based on our blood type.

Is your head spinning yet? 

Over the years, I’ve done the fad diets. I’ve been a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and rejoined a handful of times to help lose weight I’ve regained. I’ve done short jaunts on South Beach. I ate a primarily Primal diet for nearly four months last year. I’ve dabbled in mainly vegetarian eating. With all of these, I’ve lost weight. I’ve regained it. Lost it again. And gained it back again. 

Last year, I decided the yo-yo had to stop. I made the decision to focus on building a healthy, strong body through exercise. I committed to training for a few running races, but I didn’t change my diet. I went from a couch potato to running a half marathon in 6 months. And I didn’t lose a single pound.

Here, let me repeat that for you. I.didn’t.lose.a.single.freaking.pound. 

How does that happen? And what does that tell us about effectively losing weight?

Well, I think this happened to me because I sometimes rewarded myself for my workouts with food. I let myself have the cookie because I was going to run that night. I had the Blizzard or sundae over the weekend because, hey, I just ran 7 miles. I didn’t do this every day, but it was enough to stall any weight loss impact my increased activity could have had.

And ultimately, I think this tells us that exercise alone will not get us to an ideal weight. We need the combination of the right foods to fuel our bodies along with the right activities to strengthen and work them.

For me, I’ve had the most success when I view food as fuel. I think first about fueling my body with the nutrition it needs. This means I’m more apt to choose a salad as the base for my lunch rather than a sandwich because I realize my body needs the vitamins in leafy greens more than the carbs in whole-wheat bread. Similarly, I try to make my snacks work for me, nutrition-wise. Crackers don’t do a whole lot nutritionally. But fruit and some peanut or almond butter, that’s providing me vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, fiber and protein. Also this is why I love Shakeology. It packs a ton of nutrition into an easy-to-make shake that I drink daily for breakfast. (Ask me about Shakeology in the comments if you want more info.)

The other thing I’m striving to do is to “eat clean” when possible. There’s no real definition of clean eating out there, so I’ve kind of made my own. For me, eating clean is avoiding packaged, processed foods. It’s shopping the perimeter of the store and focusing on whole foods. 

Don’t be fooled…I’m not perfect by any means. I struggle with this every day. I cheat and get fast food with my kids on the weekend. Sometimes I eat entirely too much dry cereal in the evenings while watching TV. But no one’s perfect. What matters here is that I’ve found a way of thinking about food that is generally working for me, and one that helps me avoid the fad diet mentality, yo-yo weight loss and emotional eating. (Oh yes, my friend emotional eating. You’ve met her, right? When we use food as a reward, like I did when I started running, that is emotional eating at its finest. Craving chocolate when you’ve had a bad day…that’s emotional eating too. Conquering emotional eating deserves its own post, and I have to say, I don’t have all the answers there.) 

It’s not producing mind-shattering weight loss. (So far, just about 10 lbs over several months.) But I feel good. I can tell my body is getting stronger. I am healthier. And that’s what really matters to me.

In Which I PR (Penguin in the Park Race Recap)

So…I did it. I surpassed my goal time for the 5k. 🙂 This is one of the reasons I love running. The challenge of setting a goal. Training. And then meeting it.

Maybe this appeals to me so much because, as moms, our thanks are few and far between. We rise at the crack of dawn. Work at home or in an office, giving our best to the tasks at hand–whether they be caring for our children or making our mark in the professional world. Then we rush through dinner, play time, bath time, stories and bedtime, just to fall into bed and rise again the next morning to do it all over again.  

When was the last time we got a medal for that?!?

Race Recap    

It was cool and humid, around 50 degrees when we started. The race went well. Everything was organized despite the crowd. There weren’t a lot of spectators throughout the course, but there was a nice group cheering at the finish line. I like to stick around at the end to cheer for everyone, even the last finishers, because I want to show my support for everyone regardless of speed. Whether walking or running, crossing 3.1 miles deserves applause. I saw so many people of all ages and fitness abilities out there today. It was pretty awesome to see people pushing themselves to the end, whether that was for a 29 minute PR (like me) or a 50 minute finish time. I’m just a sentimental muck for that kind of stuff. 🙂 

The post-race party had awesome food. I didn’t eat any of the chili, but the muffins and cookies from Mrs. Fields were delicious! I hate it when post-race food is all healthy stuff. 😉 John Bingham (of Runner’s World/Penguin fame) was the MC of the race and spoke at the after-event. It was cool to run a race with him, knowing that he’s inspired so many unlikely people to pick up running and change their lives for the better. Image                                    

And this answers the second most frequent question I get about distance running. (The first question being, “You ran how long? Why?!?)

ZINNRUNNER

Caveat: As they say, a little bit of crazy is all right.

Recently a friend asked me: “What on earth do you think about while running for three hours??  All I can think about is how much I hate running, how far I’ve gone, and when the run will be over!”    Actually, I get this question quite a bit and it is a valid question.  After all, running is 60% mind and 40% body.  Your mind will give up long before your body will. What to do with that mind of yours?  How do you cope on long runs?  How do you cope on a day you need to run, but just don’t feel like it?  I used my 17 mile run a couple days ago to ponder these very questions (thanks, Ang for the mind candy!).  You should know that any actual answers to these questions do not exist…

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In which I have a bad run.

Something that troubled me as a new runner–and still troubles me today nearly a year later–is when I have a bad run for no good reason. Sure, I understand bad runs the day after I’ve drank too much alcohol. Or slept too little. Or not drank enough water throughout the day. I get those. I expect those.

It’s these random bad runs that I can’t trace back to a cause which drive me crazy. I’m left wondering why. Why is my calf cramping up? Why are my quads screaming at me? Why do I feel like I’ve done 100 squats when yesterday was a rest day? And why does this have to happen when it’s 75 degrees, sunny and gorgeous outside? Bad runs in good weather just suck.

And when a bad run happens the week of a race?

My confidence takes off running…much faster than me, unfortunately. I have a 5k on Saturday morning, and I have a target time in mind.

And yeah. I had a crappy run on Monday. I headed out for 4 miles, and was pretty happy when I stuck with it for 3. Too bad it was at turtle speed…two minutes/mile slower than my target time.

I will not let this sink my confidence for Saturday. I will not let this suck the joy out of running. I will not. 

“I took the one less traveled by…”


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

Recognize this snippet of a poem by Robert Frost from high school English class?

It inspired my long run today. I decided to ditch the sidewalks and neighborhoods and head out in the country for the first 5 miles or so. I was not disappointed. Look at some of the beauty I saw while I was out.

 
 

Also while I was out, I remembered a discussion we had in one of my literature classes in college about this poem. While everyone assumes that Frost is looking back — pleased — about having taken that less-traveled road, the poem actually never passes judgment on the decision.

So, is this poem one of satisfaction or one of regret?

In that discussion, I argued that humans are — by nature — hopeful beings, so we choose to interpret it as a poem of optimism. Of quiet satisfaction. Of clarity and purpose. But we could just as easily argue the other way. That Frost is looking back with regret. Look at that first line I quoted. “With a sigh.” Is that a sad sigh or a content sigh? We’ll never know.

Now that I’ve taken you on a little analytical journey, let’s get back to my actual 8 mile journey over the pavement this morning.

Training notes: 1 cup of coffee, 1 scoop Beachbody E&E and 2 pieces of whole-wheat toast with butter and cinnamon sugar before this run. No upset stomach. Felt really great while I was out!