I am trying to practice gratitude more in 2021, so figured I’d start off with reviewing the good parts of 2020. I know this past year has been awful in many ways, and I recognize it’s okay to feel really shitty about this year, but I think finding small moments of joy are a good way of coping for me and something I want to do more often. So here goes (in no order):
Accomplishing my 2020 New Year’s Eve goal of cooking more — mostly HelloFresh, but I count it
Attending many meetings and classes while petting my cats and showing them off to colleagues and students
Kayaking in Lake Champlain – it was so beautiful I literally started crying
Going on the ferris wheel at National Harbor on Valentine’s Day (they even gave us a rose!)
Visiting my sister in Georgia and finding my favorite brewery, Creature Comforts (They even have giant chess!) and exploring Atlanta (in the before times)
Having Jeni’s ice cream for the first time, and many times since (my first one was lavender berry — so good! Can’t believe I was sleeping on this)
Reading Normal People on a hill overlooking the Potomac on a sunny day
Seeing Swan Lake and the REACH Winter Lanterns at the Kennedy Center
Moving my cats and myself to Alexandria to quarantine with my boyfriend
Receiving the sweetest and kindest notes from my students from the very first class I taught
Seeing a bald eagle at Huntley Meadows Park on Thanksgiving Day
Getting to walk around Alexandria every day – seeing all the gorgeous architecture, views of DC, and the Potomac
Wandering the nature preserve near my apartment and seeing all sorts of beautiful birds
Having a picnic of bagels and lox and mimosas for Easter at Waterfront Park
Getting beers to-go on King Street and walking around Alexandria during the brief period before police cracked down on it/restaurants reopened lol
Attending Barre3 classes outside at Jones Bridge Park
Starting my weekly “Wine and Whine” nights with friends I met in grad school, which we continued over Zoom once quarantine started
Officially moving in with my boyfriend into a beautiful apartment complex overlooking the water
Drinking delicious cocktails and eating baked goods that my boyfriend made over quarantine
Practicing yoga over zoom with my parents and sister almost daily (Yoga with Adriene is the best!) and getting to keep in touch with my family while improving at yoga, which I’ve always liked but had never done regularly
I am also just incredibly grateful that I am in the position to be able to work remotely, have been able to avoid getting covid even while my boyfriend worked as part of Alexandria’s emergency response, and that my family is still well (even though multiple family members had symptoms of covid over the quarantine which was scary). I am thankful to have found my boyfriend before quarantine and how understanding he was when I moved my two cats and myself into his studio apartment. I am grateful that I have been able to see my family outside with masks on for a few hours a couple of times, even though I miss being able to visit them. And I am glad to be living in a beautiful city with a wonderful little family during this tough time.
My goals are a little bit of a mess right now because starting Jan. 1 I began two different health-related challenge:
Pure Barre 40/60(Jan. 1 – March 1)
Basically the challenge is to complete 40 classes in 60 days. They did this previously but it was 20 in 30 days, and I was like 3 away from finishing (and thus did not receive a free t-shirt, a travesty I know). While I recognize that this is just a scheme for them to get people to buy more memberships, and the prize isn’t even that good (a discount… on more memberships) I am extremely susceptible to challenges, even ones that don’t necessarily make sense for me to be doing. But like they put up a giant board in the studio where you mark off your classes, and I am too competitive and enjoy charts too much to NOT do it!
100 Days (Jan. 1 – April 10)
Back in Jan. 2017 (now 2 years ago) John Green created a YouTube series called 100 days. This series outlined his and his friend Chris’ 100 day journey to better fitness and health, culminating in running a 10k. I really enjoyed this video series. It focused on healthy behaviors like eating well and exercising as opposed to (potentially problematic or triggering) goals like losing weight. They purposefully did not count their calories but instead focused on getting their daily servings of certain food groups and taking pictures of their food to document it. They also incorporated mental health into the videos and one of their goals was meditating.
Out of this series grew a Facebook group that I’ve followed peripherally but never really engaged in. But, starting Jan. 1, they started up their own community 100 days and I committed to it this time. In the vein of the original series, I set the following goals for the next 100 days:
Exercise:Exercise at least 15 minutes moderate-intense exercise or at least 30 minutes of low intensity exercise. Goal: 71 days out of the 100 (or about 5 days per week).
Nutrition:Eat fruits and vegetables, avoid eating to the point of discomfort, and avoid drinking alcohol to excess (no more than 4 drinks at a time) (also keep eating vegetarian and limited non-plant based foods like dairy). Goal: 85 days out of the 100 (or about 6 days per week).
Self Care:Meditate, read, or write for at least 5 minutes. Goal: 71 days out of the 100 (or about 5 days per week).
This challenge aligned really well with the Cherry Blossom 10 mile, which I am running on April 7th. Unfortunately, I’ve been having some foot problems (which is why I did not get to run any long distance races last year like I wanted to), so I’m hoping I can get it fixed up to run it. If my foot heals, this run will be my culminating goal for the challenge. Honestly, my main goal is to just finish XD I haven’t been running as much in the past couple years so I don’t think I am going to set a personal record or anything.
New Year’s Resolutions for 2019:
Honestly, 2019 is going to be a big year for me. I applied to doctoral programs this past fall and already received acceptance at one. So unless something goes horribly wrong I should be doing some of these things no matter what – quitting my job, starting the program, and moving. But regardless I think they are still goals.
Professional development and life events:
Quit my current job
Start a doctoral program
Run the Cherry Blossom 10 mile
Reach 100 classes at the Silver Spring Pure Barre studio (I want to sign that bar!)
Nutrition and Health:
Continue eating a vegetarian diet and eating majority plant-based foods
Drink less (generally aiming for at most 4 drinks a week; for vacations or special events not drinking to the point of feeling sick or hungover)
Prioritize sleep and sustaining a regular sleep schedule; getting on average 7 hours of sleep per night
Read at least 12 books (physical books as opposed to 100k fics lol)
Diversify my social activities and expand my social circle
Regularly challenge and find ways to cope with my social anxiety
See friends who I haven’t reached out to in awhile
Visit friends who live far away
Things I have to do for life purposes but don’t wanna:
Prepare for being extremely poor in graduate school by organizing my finances, creating a budget, and finding ways to save money before quitting my job
Are these too many goals? Possibly. I tend to make too many goals every year, but its hard for me to cut back. I am a very goal-oriented person, and at any one time I am usually in the midst of some challenge I set for myself that involves a too-complex set of goals and activities and tracking. That is just how I live my life. If I don’t have set goals and keep myself accountable I just become inert.
That last one will be the most difficult. I’ve become very accustomed to the lifestyle of a single 20-something working a white collar consulting job. I go to Pure Barre, I shop at Whole Foods, I have every streaming service, I use clothing and food delivery services, I drink kombucha regularly. Today I went to Whole Foods and bought $10 sushi without batting an eye. I am not ready to be living off a 20k yearly stipend O_O.
Well, folks, as is the way of life my couple months of gleeful exercise was followed by a multi-week slump. I was doing really well with exercising regularly and eating healthy foods through December and January, but then February hit, which is when:
I went to LA, which was super fun but definitely threw off my routine. Also involved lots of unhealthy foods and alcohol. Also had to deal with jet lag and feeling crummy after coming back (swearing off overnight flights from here on out omg).
Work got super stressful. Everything I previously enjoyed about my job is now gone, which is pretty depressing tbh. Before I really liked my manager because she mostly let me be and focused more on the quality of research done rather than the things consulting companies normally care about (sales, unnecessary meetings, ridiculously complex formatting templates, working 50+ hours a week). My manager had just kinda let me manage myself, which was awesome. She also hated unnecessary meetings as much as I did. Recently, however, they brought on a new person whose entire job is to “manage” us and not do any of the actual work… and that has been really fucking annoying and stressful. And those who know me know I don’t manage stress…. well. So my health and also health behaviors like exercising and eating well really suffered. And of course it’s an endless cycle: stress –> sleeping poorly, not exercising, not eating well, drinking too much –> feeling even shittier/stressing out more –> and so forth. It’s difficult to break that cycle when you are in it.
February is always, always, the worst time for me mental and physical health wise. It’s dark and cold and there aren’t any holidays (no, I did not get off for President’s day XD). I always reach my lowest point in February, but even while knowing this and trying to prepare in advance, there’s only so much I can do. Sometimes I just gotta ride out the month and remind myself that it gets better.
I’m still attempting to wean off my meds. I stalled at half a pill because things got intense in life, and I didn’t feel ready to reduce it any more. Even though I originally felt good with half a pill, it’s making it harder to get out of my low points, and I’m wondering now if I should go back to my full dose.
I got sick, which threw off my exercise and food routines even more.
Many of my fitness deals that I had expired, and I’ve been too cheap to do any new ones. Pure Barre was great for me because it was right next to my work and easy for me to do after work 2x a week – but I did the free week trial and the $99 unlimited month deals, and the normal prices ($25 a class or some deals where you pay for 10 or 20 classes) is just too exorbitant for me to justify while I am paying so much each month for my student loans (really hating past me’s decision to pay for a 100k grad school). Similarly, I did a free month of ClassPass but canceled it (many of the studios around my work don’t actually offer ClassPass – even the Pure Barre next to my work even though it does at other places; also the cancellation policy is annoying – you have to cancel 12 hours in advance or else you get charged).
So, anyway, this post has become a monster, but I feel like it’s helpful to look back at why I’m feeling shitty right now and help figure out how to get back to where I was in Dec/Jan and feeling good.
Soooooo…. that brings me to my NEW CHALLENGE – THE SIX DAY SPRINT!!!! The purpose of this challenge is really to jump start me back into a good diet and exercise routine. After this is done, I’m hoping to come up with more concrete goals for myself and do a longer challenge.
But for this week’s challenge (Sunday-Friday):
At least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise EVERY DAY FOR SIX DAYS, making sure that it includes a mix of cardio, strength, and flexibility.
Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds
Healthy fats and oils
At least 7 hours per night
Maintain sleep schedule (around 11pm-7am give or take an hour in either direction)
Coming up, I will give an update on how my 6-day streak goes (already I had a yummy avocado and egg toast for breakfast and am about to exercise).
Also, coming up I will be reviewing and comparing meal delivery services (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Home Chef) but am waiting until I cook a couple more Home Chef meals so it is a fair comparison (however, spoiler alert, currently Hello Fresh is in the lead).
Do you experience a mental and physical health slump in the winter? How do you deal with it?
Today I tried out a TRX class for the first time!! I mostly ended up going because I had received 5 free class pass classes through a promotional deal that ends in a week – so I figured it was time to quickly cram 5 workout classes into the last 7 days.
I woke up to a rainy and gloomy Saturday morning, but I was pumped to leave the apartment (this isn’t something I do often) and get my workout on. I yelled at my sister to get ready to go because we had to leave in 10 minutes. She, like me, had still been in bed (full disclosure: it was noon).
I was feeling a little sore in my back and shoulders because this week I’d been trying to get back into my perpetual pursuit of attempting to complete one “Big Girl” push up, and so this week I had completed probably 200 wall push ups along with my standard semi-daily 8fit workouts. But overall I was feeling pretty good.
So I gulped down a glass of water, two (n)espressos, a banana and ventured out into the Great Flood to make it to my class.
The studio I went to – Next Phase Studio – felt like it was out of a Pinterest board, similar to most boutique fitness studios. Well placed, pastel art. Infusers to cover up the smell of sweaty gym-goers. Obnoxiously attractive and fit instructors.
For those who don’t know, TRX suspension training involves working with ropes or bands hanging from the ceiling to complete resistance exercises using your own body weight. What does TRX stand for? I have no idea? Does the T stand for Torture? What could X possible stand for? Are they just random letters?
To be honest, I was a bit intimidated when I first saw the rows of bands hanging from the ceiling akin to a kinky BDSM dungeon. Was I supposed to hang from those things? Would it hold my weight? The thin metal bars to which the bands were attached did not seem particularly sturdy.
Despite my fears, the class ended up being quite enjoyable! I felt an inner glee, that from looking at the rest of the class perhaps was mine alone, at contorting with the bands that made me nostalgic for childhood days of playing with various playground equipment. My favorite was getting into plank position with my feet in the bands and attempting (and failing) to pull my knees in. I felt a whoosh in my stomach every time I’d put my knees up and feel my feet fly back.
It was also great for a weakling such as myself to get the feel for exercises I can’t normally do like split jacks (basically being in a semi-lunge then jumping to switch legs). I felt like a superhero completing movements that would normally cause my body to fall apart immediately.
One negative was the crowding that happened in the studio. At various points I’d end up almost falling into my fellow TRXers on either side of me and often had to angle myself to try to find an empty spot.
Overall I was pretty happy with it. Fun, a good strength workout, and not overly challenging. I’d give it about 4/5.
Have you tried TRX? How did you like it?
Next up: Jen&Tonics rates her HelloFresh meals by quality, healthiness, and overall mouth feel.
I, as always, am very delayed in posting. Last Saturday marked the END of the Christmas Crunch Fitness Challenge, which I originally anticipated to end after 4 weeks. I was motivated to start this challenge by the weight I gained over Thanksgiving (plus just in general feeling tired, sluggish, and out of shape for months before that), wanting to have a way to offset the normal influx of sweets and alcohol around Christmas, and most importantly wanting to go into 2018 strong and motivated.
This was probably my favorite of my fitness challenges I have completed so far. I’ve tried similar ones in the past. I would incorporate my family for social support and come up with various rewards and challenges. My sister and I won a the trophy for our fitness challenge over the summer for completing the most cardio. The trophy, of course, was a baby Groot pop doll XD
I think this challenge was more successful than the last one, though, because I focused more on reducing my calorie intake as opposed to only adding exercise. I also had more formal and intense workouts through trying out boxing and barre.
I’m someone who very much so engages in caloric compensation* after exercising. There are biological and psychological reasons why you end up pigging out after exercising, and historically I always gave into the urge to eat everything in site after working out. That’s also how I grew up – my family would often go on runs together but then end up having these huge feasts afterwards. Exercise is still super important for mental health, longevity, strength, and overall health and fitness; but in terms of losing weight, it’s not always super helpful.
That’s why this time around I tried really hard to count my calories. It was frustrating at times when I’d end up going over my calorie limit and feel shitty about it, but overall I think it helped me better manage my food intake and figure out where a lot of calories were coming from (*ahem* alcohol) and what choices I could make to lower my calorie consumption. I was also careful to always eat enough calories to sustain me, especially when I had a tough workout. This was important because I tend to get on a restrict-binge cycle, and so making sure I had a similar amount of calories every day (net 1,390 – more if I exercised) I was able to prevent myself from eating too little or too much.
Another thing I found successful about the past month was that, by tracking my overall calorie intake, I was also tracking my alcohol intake which I think was eye opening for me. I always felt I was a more casual, sporadic drinker, but even when I am only drinking socially I drink more than I thought I did, and those times I do drink I definitely go overboard. Recently, I’ve been working to cut back a lot more on my alcohol intake and both abstain from alcohol for a certain time period (like weekdays – replacing a beer after work with *angry biking* on my new stationary bike while watching tv) and then trying to moderate more when I’m drinking with friends (my goal is to keep it around 2-3 drinks unless it’s a super long period of time; I’ve been relatively successful the past week at this but we will see how it goes in the future).
Anyway, my last week of the Christmas Crunch (which ended January 6th – I’m posting late) went decently well. I biked, did workouts using the 8fit app, and went to barre. I made a really delicious vegan recipe with my friends that was a tofu stir fry with fresh veggies (red pepper, broccoli, onion, and avocado) and a delicious peanut sauce (peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and sriracha).
The only problem was that we then managed to finish off a fifth of whiskey directly after eating our healthy meal…
But, generally, I was able to complete all my goals for week 4:
>210 minutes cardio – COMPLETE
>3 strength workouts – COMPLETE
>2 flexibility workouts – COMPLETE
My overarching food goal for week 4 was to meal plan, get the necessary groceries from instacart, and then actually make the healthy meals – which I did!
This past week (post-Christmas Crunch) was actually my best week yet since starting to eat healthier and trying to get fit. I managed to go to barre twice this week (I’ve been enough times now that I’m not too sore to move afterwards like I was before), biked, did 8fit twice, and went running twice!! I’m excited to start running regularly again to start training for the marathon. I just have to keep staying motivated to make it to Novemeber ha… I also ate really well this week (mostly lean meats with veggies for dinner and a small amount of whole grains) and limited myself to only one cocktail with dinner on Friday (and, okay, a couple hot toddies after dinner).
Some food from this week:
I honestly feel amazing. It’s like a fog has been lifted, and I’m finally awake after being asleep for years or something. I am able to sleep at night and actually wake up in the morning. I’m excited about things and motivated. I feel stronger and leaner. A lot of this is from the exercise and eating healthier, but some is also due to weaning off my meds (down from 10mg to 5mg of Lexapro). SSRIs really helped me when I needed them, but eventually they just made me really tired and foggy-brained. I’m in a mental place now where I am able to go off of them and be okay, and I am really grateful for that.
Anyway, moving onto RESULTS for ALL 4 weeks of the Christmas Crunch!
Start of Christmas Crunch (Dec. 10, 2017):
Weight: 197.4 lbs
End of Christmas Crunch (Jan. 6, 2018)
Weight: 191.4 lbs
TOTAL: 6 pounds lost in 4 weeks!
Progress Pics from Dec. 10 to Jan. 6:
More so than what is on the scale or how I look, what I am most proud of is just how much better I feel. I feel strong and healthy. I feel good. Yes, fitness makes your body stronger, but it also makes you mentally stronger. One of my favorite parts of working out is that post-workout high when you feel you can conquer the world.
Thanks for coming with me on this Christmas Crunch journey. I’ll still keep posting about once a week or so about my diet and fitness progress. I do still have 3 more weeks left of my unlimited barre classes, then am going to get back into boxing, and in March will be starting my marathon training – so there is still plenty to look forward to!
*Caloric compensation refers to adjustments in intake in response to changes in the caloric content of a preload and can provide a measure of individual differences in satiety (ie, effects of food after eating has ended) (RollsBJ. The relationship between dietary energy density and energy intake.Physiol Behav 2009;97:609–15.)
Delayed yet again… whoops. To be fair to myself, I did spend 4 hours yesterday driving from New Jersey to Maryland and thus was too exhausted to focus on my check in.
This week went… okay? I was able to exercise a fair amount, but the crazy binge day I had on Thursday (outlined in my last post) really screwed up my week. I’m hoping to finish the week 4 (the final week) of the Christmas Crunch challenge strong though.
There has definitely been benefits to the challenge so far. I’ve gotten back into the habit of exercising almost every day, which is important. I also feel like I have more energy and feel lighter and more fit. I feel like I’m building a strong basis for the marathon training I’m going to start in the spring. It also taught me about what some of my strengths are (sticking with a fitness plan for the week, exercising consistently) and my weaknesses (binging on food – especially pizza! – and alcohol) that will help me in moving forward.
This week went pretty well exercise-wise. I got a good variety of cardio in: biking, walking, and since I was in NJ I got to use the heavy bag that’s at my house for boxing. For strength I used 8fit for a couple workouts and then did a combo of free weight and body weight exercises. In NJ I also attempted to use our weight bench but as a weight bench newbie was pretty pathetic.
Goal: track calories on MyFitnessPal set on losing 2 pounds per week (net 1390 calories per day)
Actual: 2 tracked and went over the calorie limit (by a lot yikes), 2 days did not track (Christmas Eve and Christmas since we ate at restaurants and would have been off anyway), so I only succeeded at tracking my food and staying under the calorie limit for 3 days.
In some ways, I kind of set myself up to fail with this one. It was impossible to maintain any sort of calorie limit or fitness goals, as one would imagine. I didn’t expect to go so off the rails on Thursday with food and drinking – but I was also coming off of a day where I had worked all day, drove up to NJ, and then went out with friends. My will power was nil by the end of the night. I forgive myself though – I mean how do I resist NJ pizza???
Start weight: 197.4 lbs
Week 1 check in weight: 192.6 lbs
Week 2 check in weight: 192.6 lbs
Week 3 check in weight: 192 lbs
5.4 pounds lost total
0.6 pounds lost during week 3
Okay, yeah, 0.6 lbs lost is not great, but it was fucking Christmas so I’ll cut myself some slack. The real challenge will be seeing if I lose anything this week – the final week – to see how much of a success this challenge has been.
Week 4 Goals
>210 minutes cardio
>3 strength workouts
>2 flexibility workouts
I actually just signed up for a special deal at the Pure Barre studio by my work to do unlimited classes for a month. So if I get myself to go 2-3 times a week that should make a huge difference. Right now my focus is on losing weight and getting fit in general so that when I start my marathon training in March I will be able to make a strong start.
In terms of food, for this week I’m mixing it up and instead of tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal I set up a food plan for the week and then ordered all the supplies on Instacart. I DO have a work party tomorrow so will have to be careful to not binge too much on the goodies that are there.
Breakfast: greek yogurt and a banana
Mid-Morning snack: hard boiled egg and carrots
Lunch: PBJ and grape tomatoes
Afternoon snack: oatmeal and an apple
Dinner: lean meat, fish, or vegetarian protein (chicken, salmon, tofu, tempeh, or beans) with vegetables (brussel sprouts, steamed broccoli, red pepper, avocado, sweet potato)
Also, I augmented my “Dry January” plan to a “Semi-Dry January” where I am trying to limit myself to 3-4 drinks per week. Gotta start somewhere, right?
Excited to go into week 4 and also into 2018 strong!!!
BONUS 2018 FITNESS RESOLUTION: In 2018, I plan on running my very first marathon!!! Hopefully either the Marine Corps Marathon in DC in October or the Anthem Richmond Marathon in November. I’ve ran a half marathon before, but this will be a whole new challenge for me, and I’m excited to start training in the Spring!!!
You must be thinking, “Jen, you must have made a mistake, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to have 4,226 calories in one day!” Welp, apparently it is not, and I did.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that my weight gain over the past few years hasn’t been because of lack of exercise or my food choices in my day to day life. I work out a few times a week pretty consistently. I get up and walk around frequently at work to the point where I look ridiculous walking past people’s cubicles so often. I drink 8+ glasses of water a day. My normal diet may include slightly too much cheese and popcorn, but generally I’m having a lot of salads and stir fry and tempeh. I don’t like ice cream or sweets very much. It’s not my standard every day habits that are making me fat, that have caused me to gain 40+ pounds in the past 5 years – it’s almost entirely alcohol and the food that I eat during and after drinking.
I use MyFitnessPal a lot, but I almost never track my calories on Drinking Days. And my Drinking Days usually occur at least once a week and involve consuming a ridiculous amount of calories. Just look above – I managed to have 1,216 calories from alcohol alone!!!! And then, as one does, I totally lost all self control after drinking and ate both additional pizza AND taco bell. Pizza and taco bell are both some of my favorite foods, but sober Jen prooobably would not have had them at the same time and in those quantities whilst trying to lose weight. I ordered the pizza on purpose, thinking to myself that I could just have 2 slices and stay under my calorie limit for the day. Boy was I naive.
Let it also be known that before I left for the night I told my parents that I wasn’t going to drink that much so that I’d be good to go running the next morning. This was apparently me “not drinking that much.” Hahahaha… ha… ha. That being said, I have gone running while hungover many times, and it’s actually a pretty good hangover cure if you don’t throw up in the middle of it.
But, to get back to my point, it’s not a coincidence that my weight gain started after I turned 21. Like most college students, I drank somewhat before I turned 21, but it was pretty rare, and when I did drink it consisted of something like having a couple of shots at parties once a month. It wasn’t beer or fancy cocktails – I didn’t even like beer until I was 21 and tried out new kinds that weren’t light beers that tasted like piss. And it wasn’t multiple times a week.
When I turned 21 I started going out regularly. Most Thursdays I’d find myself at Looney’s or Cornerstone. And going to the bar meant multiple drinks while pre-gaming and then more drinks at the bar. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have 7-10 drinks in a night, sometimes more than that. And then there was the drunk food (my go to was bagel bites and chicken nuggets) and the subsequent unhealthy hangover food the next morning (for me, ramen noodles or DP Dough). I don’t “go out” like I used to, but I still get drinks with my friends on a weekly basis. Limiting myself most nights to beer only may prevent me from drinking too much and appeases my poor, abused stomach, but it doesn’t help anything calories wise when I’m drinking 4-6 beers (and not the light beer shit) in a night along with eating the normal pub fare like chicken tenders, burgers, etc.
So what do I do? People with better self control than I do would stop drinking. If I went cold turkey I’d probably easily see the pounds slide off of me. But I don’t even think that’s realistic for me. I’ve tried to cut out alcohol completely before, and it did not go well. I didn’t see friends because I knew I’d be tempted. I couldn’t go to my favorite restaurants (which are mostly pubs and breweries heh). I was constantly anxious from telling myself to not drink and also depressed from not going out with friends as much. Telling myself I couldn’t drink at all made me want to drink even more than I normally would.
It’s about to be 2018. This is the time where we reflect on the past year and decide what we want to keep from 2017 and what we want to change for 2018 (à la John Green). I want to keep spending time with my friends. Trying out new, delicious beers at fun bars in DC. Closing out the week by getting buzzed. Glorious, hoppy IPAs.
But what do I want to get rid of? My immediate urge to down multiple drinks whenever I go out. The nervous knot in my gut that I get when I’m in public or with friends that causes me to drink into oblivion. The part of me that drinks and then loses all self control when it comes to food. That one drink towards the end of the night that pushes me over from tipsy to too drunk. Being hungover. Messing up my sleep schedule. Having my body be screwed up for days after one night of too much drinking. Losing my credit card, my ID, my keys, my dignity…
Anyway – anyone out there ever try to cut back or eliminate drinking? What tricks or tips worked for you? I seem to find a lot of resources for people with pretty severe alcohol issues who want to stop drinking completely, but less so for us alcohol enthusiasts who want to cut back because we are getting too old for this shit.
UPDATE (an hour later, and an hour deeper into this hangover): My Christmas Crunch fitness challenge was always going to be a short term challenge for the holidays. My original 4-week challenge ends after next week. SO I think this will be a good time to transition from my Christmas Crunch to Dry January. Although it’s only going to be a dry part-of-January because I’m going to LA towards the end of January with my friends, and there is no way I will stay sober for that. But here is to staying sober from January 1st until January 18th! The last time I did a sober challenge I made it like 8 days so we will see how this new challenge goes.
Before I started this fitness challenge, people were a bit flabbergasted that I would start this around the holidays. And, you know, they WERE kind of right. During the holidays you face the trifecta of influences that can cause you to overeat and miss out on exercise;
Stress. I know the holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and allow you to take a vacation from work. But for the most part the holidays feel like anything but a vacation. My holiday season is mostly comprised of nonstop cleaning for family/friends to come over, grocery shopping, gift shopping, and coordinating. To be fair, I hosted an unusual amount of things this year including four different holiday gatherings with various friends and family including hosting Hanukkah AND Christmas within a few days of each other.
Social pressure to eat and eat and eat. Thanksgiving turkey. Copious amounts of Manischewitz and gelt and delicious brisket and latkes. Stockings stuffed with candy. Extra wine, beer, and cocktails to help survive family… You are not only SURROUNDED by delicious food but you are in an environment where you are socially obligated to eat that food.
Interruption to routine. One of the key parts of fitness and weight loss is routine, routine, routine. I was the most fit back when I had my fitness schedule down to the T. Dance class at noon on Mondays, Pilates at noon on Wednesdays, and running on Saturday and Sunday (and other days when training for races). Routine helps for food too. It is incredibly helpful for your diet and fitness to be set up beforehand and be mindless. You can only make so many decisions in a day before you get decision fatigue. If you have to think about whether you will exercise every day, you won’t want to do it. This is another reason why the holidays fucks up diets and exercise – it completely throws off your routine. You may also be traveling and not have access to the types of exercise classes or equipment you are used to.
So…. how did I deal with these challenges? For me, I power through this in a couple of different ways:
Communication. My family knew I was trying to eat well and exercise even through the holidays. It didn’t change much, but it did make me feel a little better about turning down various pastries.
Mindfulness/Acceptance. I went into the holiday knowing I wouldn’t be able to sustain the same level of healthy diet and fitness I did at the beginning of the challenge. However, even as I was enjoying some not-so-healthy foods like cheese and scones, or imbibing some cocktails or beer, I still tried to be aware of what I was doing so I wouldn’t mindlessly end up in a binge until I felt sick. I also tried to enjoy my food. Christmas only comes once a year, afterall. I wasn’t about to feel guilty for enjoying a couple Christmas cookies – but, thankfully, I was able to stop myself after just a couple. People with better will power than me could abstain altogether, but honestly even just having a few is an accomplishment for me.
Balance/Flexibility. The key to a sustainable fitness and diet challenge is being able to come up with a plan that still allows you to enjoy life, be social, and thrive. Yes, I may have been able to lose more weight if I had completely abstained from alcohol and unhealthy foods over my holiday celebrations, but I would have been cranky and not enjoying myself. Similarly, if I had completely let go and allowed myself to have whatever I wanted I would have felt sick and terrible by the end of it. Everyone has their own balance. My balance was allowing myself a fair amount of alcohol and a few sweets. However, I also ordered a salad and chicken at dinner. I limited myself to only a few sweets. I tried to keep up my fitness regimen throughout the week. And instead of giving up after a small setback, I am accepting that what done is done and am focusing on what I can do next.
Just Keep Swimming. Dory has it right. You just gotta keep going. Keep powering through. After a night of consuming too much alcohol or too many sweets or a food binge that involved you inhaling all the food in your apartment. Do not give up. In your life you will have setbacks. You will eat too much or drink too much or feel shitty so you won’t exercise for awhile. The key is to keep going no matter what. Lace up those running shoes the day after going to the bars even though you are hungover. Get back on that bike after eating Christmas cookies. Do some yoga after dealing with the stress of hosting family. You can do this.
Actual: 170 minutes cardio (60 minutes moderate, 110 minutes light), 1 actual strength workout (barre) + 2 semi-strength workouts (lifting heavy objects via cleaning), 1 flexibility workout (barre)
Sunday: 15 minutes bike, 15 minutes rowing machine
Monday: 20 minute walk to CVS (I’m counting light cardio!)
Tuesday: 50 minute Pure Barre class (I ended up liking the normal Pure Barre class a LOT better than Pure Barre Empower. However, I was sore for DAYS afterwards, which really screwed up my exercise plans)
Friday: 30 minutes cleaning (normally I wouldn’t count cleaning but this was like VIGOROUS cleaning and involved going up and down many flights of stairs with garbage bags)
Saturday: 30 minutes bike, 10 minutes cleaning
So, yes, I semi cheated to reach my goals. I normally wouldn’t count barre as “cardio” but that workout seriously knocked me out and got my heart rate going and also included quite a bit of cardio-esque moves, so for now I am comfortable counting it towards my cardio, strength, and flexibility goals. Similarly, cleaning wouldn’t normally go on my list but I am giving myself some leeway this week. In future weeks I will be more discerning about what I can count.
Goal: track calories on MyFitnessPal set on losing 1 1/2 pounds per week (net 1650 calories per day)
Actual: tracked 5 of the 7 days, 3 days were under the calorie limit. Not as good as last week. Again, this past week was tough for me in preparing for the holidays. I do hope that this upcoming week I can do a better job. I’m also upping my goal from 1 1/2 pounds lost to 2 pounds lost per week, so it will be even harder to get under my calorie limit.
Start weight: 197.4 lbs
Week 1 check in weight: 192.6 lbs
Week 2 check in weight: 192.6 lbs
4.8 pounds lost total
0 pounds lost week 2
To be honest, I’m just happy I maintained the weight I had lost during week 1. Not my ideal weigh in weight – but will keep on moving forward! Here is to going into 2018 strong 🙂
This was an insane week to start this fitness challenge – but I think that might have been a good thing. I had so many ups and downs, but in the end the week was a success, and I think by starting on a week where I was super busy and stressed allowed me to think about fitness and diet goals that are manageable every week and not just the ones where I have more time to devote to them.
I thought this was a good overall body strength workout, but the intervals for the exercises (1 minute) were a little tough for me when doing back to back planks, mountain climbers, etc.
I had to modify some exercises like the burpees and bodyweight split squat
45 minutes cardio/strength/flexibility: On Wednesday I tried out the Pure Barre Empower workout, which is similar to normal Pure Barre but with added cardio and strength:
Pros: extra cardio and strength
Cons: moved too fast for me (but I am a beginner and should have taken more classes before trying this version), not enough cardio for me
I enjoyed this class, but I liked the other barre classes I’ve tried in the past (Bar Method and another really awesome barre class in the middle of nowhere Iowa) a little better. However, I am going to abstain from judgment until a try a normal Pure Barre class to better compare it to the Bar Method.
I enjoy barre workouts, but I don’t love how the focus seems to be on fixing “trouble areas” more than trying to get fit/healthy/strong.
I took a dance class for 2 years at my old job, and it incorporated similar moves as barre but with 20 minutes of actual dancing across the floor so included more cardio. Also it was more about learning to dance and getting strong and flexible rather than losing weight or shaping your body. I wish barre was a little more like that class was.
15 minutes cardio: I had a HUGE work deadline due Friday, so Thursday included like 12 hours of working, but I still managed to get in 15 minutes of a combo of the rowing machine and dancing to de-stress. I also felt my workouts from the rest of the week really helped me be able to focus and stay energized to get my work done.
60 minutes cardio: dancing at karaoke? Okay, maybe this is cheating a little bit, but I was dancing HARD! Also dancing is by far my favorite workout. I definitely built up a sweat so I am counting it!!
Goal: track calories on MyFitnessPal set on losing 1 1/2 pounds per week (net 1650 calories per day)
Actual: tracked 6 out of the 7 days, all days tracked were under calorie limit (although had to guess for some meals)
Pros: It was nice to not exclude any foods this week while still technically “dieting.” Somehow I managed to eat free pizza at work, pho from Pho Wheels food truck (SO GOOD), a whiskey sour and beer, a mug brownie, hot pot, and a calzone and still stayed under my calorie goals and lost weight??
Cons: there were quite a few meals that I had to totally guess the calories on because they were at restaurants or random free food I found at work. Also, even though I was under my net calorie limit each day, the types of food you eat really do matter for health, fitness, and weight loss. I need to work on balancing eating healthy with only a small amount of treats like pizza. Although I am never going to completely give up pizza, because fitness definitely does not feel as good as pizza tastes!
I also was proud of myself because I made an awesome ultra-healthy meal of chicken and sweet potatoes for dinner on Tuesday. Wednesday onwards was kind of a shit show for actual nutrition though.
Start weight: 197.4 lbs
Week 1 check in weight: 192.6 lbs
=4.8 lbs lost!!!!!
Not too bad for week one. I also actually lost more than that throughout the week (I got down to 191) but gained a pound after completely bingeing on Friday after finishing my work project. Apparently when I am both stressed and celebrating finishing a project I immediately am triggered to binge on alcohol and unhealthy foods. Imma gonna need to work on that….
Overall, this was a good week. My restless leg syndrome drastically reduced either because I exercised more, lost weight, or because I started tapering my medication. I had more energy and focus. I just wish I had sustained my level of motivation throughout the week and didn’t let things fall apart Thursday/Friday.