Take Me to (Dance) Church

Anyone who has been around this blog knows that one of my favorite hobbies/passions is dance fitness. Eleven years ago, my coworker invited me to a Zumba class and that class changed me forever. I was instantly hooked, and found myself rearranging my schedule and making Zumba a big priority in my life. Even when I was living and working 30+ miles away, I would still make the drive so that I could attend, and when the classes ended forever a few years ago I felt like a big piece of me was missing.

I tried a couple of different Zumba classes at different gyms, but nothing filled the void like that first class did. I missed the music, the routines, my friends, everything. But I found a new home at the Red Hot Dance classes when I joined Harbor Square Athletic Club here in Edmonds, and as I became a regular and made friends I felt less sad over the loss of my beloved Zumba class (though I will miss it forever).

Of course, then the pandemic shut things down and now I don’t have a gym membership anymore. I work out pretty much exclusively from home and although I like my at-home workouts, they just aren’t the same high that I get from dance. So when my friend Kate invited me to a Dance Church class on Tuesday night, I was excited to say yes!

I’d been to an outdoor Dance Church event with Kate over the summer and had enjoyed it. They’re a dance fitness platform with both streaming and live class options, including events at venues in Seattle. Attendees are required to be vaccinated and to pre-register, so the classes are never overcrowded, and masks must be worn throughout class. Even though I am extremely cautious due to Covid, the extra precautions helped me feel confident about attending.

The class was so much fun! It was held at Washington Hall, a historic landmark building in Seattle that turned out to be a really beautiful venue for a dance class. Everyone with Dance Church was extremely kind and positive, and the enthusiasm in the room was definitely contagious. I found myself swept up in the music and the movement, and it felt like only about ten minutes had passed when the hour was up and class started winding down.

I had a blast at Dance Church and will definitely be attending more classes in the future.

Working Out with the Peloton App

Over the last year and a half, Bill and I have been working out pretty much exclusively from home. Our gym was shut down during the beginning of the pandemic, and even when it reopened in summer 2020 neither of us felt ready to go back to that environment. We decided to cancel our membership and restart it when things felt more normal, which sadly hasn’t happened yet. Although the gym we went to is taking Covid extremely seriously and has implemented a lot of great safety protocols, the idea of being around sweaty people who are breathing heavy just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me just yet.

We kept ourselves active with home workouts from our Beachbody on Demand subscription, but over the last couple of months I think both of us have grown bored with our exercise routine and found ourselves craving something new. Although BoD does have a robust library of different exercise programs to follow, I don’t really want to work out six or seven days a week and I’m generally happy to keep my home workouts to around 30 minutes, and not a lot of the Beachbody workouts fit those parameters.

A couple of weeks ago I was lamenting to a friend that I was bored with my workout routine and having a hard time making myself exercise, and she enthusiastically told me about the Peloton app. Although I do not live under a rock and know all about the extremely-popular Peloton spin bikes, what I didn’t know was that there is also an on-demand library of other types of workouts. I get a free trial of the Peloton app with my credit card, so I was able to sign up with zero commitment.

My first impression as we explored the different available workouts is that there are a LOT to pick from in different categories. And since there are some that are as short as ten minutes, we’re able to stack multiple workouts. Today, for example, we did a 20-minute strength training workout and a 10-minute cardio one. There are also longer videos to pick from, but something about doing multiple different ones makes me happy.

Using the Peloton workouts has been such a great change for us. Different trainers always work you out differently and the app has plenty of different people to choose from, and just mixing up our routine has made me more excited to work out again.

Back to Calorie Counting

Well, I threw in the towel on the Space Food Diet in the middle of last week. The processed food was wreaking havoc on my body and even though I was losing weight, it wasn’t worth continuing. Not only did I continue to have problems with my stomach, but I had zero energy and I was feeling anxious and depressed.

Now that I’m eating a balance of whole foods again, I’m feeling a lot better and I’m still losing weight! I’m not exactly sure how much I’ve lost in pounds – I weighed myself on October 1st, then again on the 9th when I started the Space Food Diet, and according to the scale I had gained four pounds in between those two weigh-ins. But since we’d been on vacation, I know that most of those four pounds were not actual weight gain. If I go by my October 1st weight, I’ve lost 1.6lbs, but if I use my October 9th weigh-in as my starting weight then I’ve lost 5.5lbs. Either way, I’m much more interested in inches lost, so we re-took measurements on Saturday and I was down another 2.75 inches. That’s 8 inches total lost in two weeks. I’m feeling pretty happy with that!

So now I’m back to calorie counting, with goals of 1200 calories six days a week and 1500 calories one day per week. The higher calorie day lets me have a nice meal if I want to, while the lower days continue to help me normalize eating less food. It’s a steeper calorie deficit than I’ll probably set for myself long-term, but at least for right now it’s been plenty of calories to eat the way I want to.

We had a really productive and enjoyable weekend. Yesterday, we rented a Uhaul and cleaned out our storage unit, taking several unused and rather worn-out items to the transfer station. It’s nice to have our storage cleaned out and organized! Today was pretty stormy, so we spent the afternoon carving the fake pumpkins I got at craft stores. I’ve wanted to carve pumpkins every year since Bill and I first got together, but it always feels like October gets away from me and before I have time to even stop and buy the supplies Halloween has come and gone. I’m so happy we got to carve them this year! I feel good about finding new things to do that are fun (or that yield results that make me happy, like organizing our storage unit) and I feel like these activities were made possible by our commitment to eating better and spending our time differently.

Day Ten

Today is day ten of the Space Food Diet. After not seeing a lot of movement on the scale, Bill and I re-took measurements last Saturday and in the first week I’m down 5.25 inches. Hooray!

Although I’m super happy with the loss of inches, I’m even more happy that I’ve been able to resist temptation and actually stick to a plan. Even though it’s not really that long a time, ten days is by far the longest I’ve stuck with any eating plan in a LONG time. I’ve noticed that my appetite isn’t raging all the time and on the few occasions when I have had cravings, I’ve been able to acknowledge them and then move on. On Friday night I was especially food-lusty, but when I told Bill how I was feeling he agreed to do a dance workout with me (something he has never done before!) and by the time we finished exercising I was in a much better mood and able to enjoy my healthy dinner.

Although the diet is giving me the reset I wanted, the space food has proven to be incredibly hard on my stomach. I’ve never experienced this before, on any diet or eating plan, and it was the last thing I was expecting. For the first few days, I accepted it as part of my body adjusting to a new style of eating, but by last weekend I was getting annoyed by how I was feeling and by today I’m considering going off of the space food and designing my own daily meal plan. I’m going to give it a couple more days before I make a decision, but I believe it’s important to listen to my body and so far it has been screaming at me that it is not happy being fed this way and it wants its whole foods back.

No matter which direction I decide to go in, I’m happy that I embarked on this diet because it really did break the cycle of poor eating that I’ve been stuck in for awhile now. Even though eating the way I am now is not something I intend to do forever, it helped me remember that a “lifestyle change” truly means that you have to make changes to your life to see results. And I know that I really do want to live a healthy lifestyle, one that I can be proud of.

Space Food Diet

I feel like I should start this post with a disclaimer that I know I swore I would never do what I’m about to do ever again. But after another month of failing to stick to a calorie-counting plan and without any weight loss (although, thankfully, also with no weight gain), I’ve decided that it’s time for desperate measures.

And so, I am planning to go on a diet.

Over the first few years of my thirties, when I started noticing myself gaining some weight, I was able to take it off by following Medifast. The program basically combined meal replacement bars and shakes with meals consisting of lean proteins and vegetables, so that by following the diet I ate six times a day. Medifast promoted either a 5-and-1 or a 4-and-2 cadence, which either meant having five meal replacements and one “normal” meal, or four meal replacements and two normal meals.

The last time I followed Medifast was back in 2017, trying to lose weight that I’d gained after our wedding. After that last time, I vowed that I wouldn’t ever go on a diet again and that I would only make changes that I was willing to live with forever. That vow sounds good in theory, but it translated to me gaining a lot of weight and struggling to figure out what to do to balance enjoying things I love with breaking unhealthy habits.

Although I’m about twelve pounds lighter than I was at my heaviest back in 2018, I’m still a good twenty pounds above my lowest weight from 2013. I know I want to lose at least ten of those pounds and that I will feel a LOT better if I do it, but I have struggled endlessly with self-control when it comes to nutrition. And although overall I’ve been extremely consistent with working out this year, there have been a couple of weeks in the last two months where I just felt so genuinely physically exhausted that I had to to take a break and focus on rest. Last week was one of those weeks, and I only worked out once (although I did walk almost every day).

I’m stuck, and I need something to get me unstuck. Although I know what I need to do to lose weight (stop eating like an asshole all the time), I seem to have lost all self-control and willpower when it comes to food. Every morning I wake up and resolve to stick to my calorie limit, but then I’ll get stressed out or even just bored and my go-to activity in life these days seems to be eating. What I want is a way to reset myself, to cut out all the desserts and drinks and indulgences and give myself a chance to unbreak bad habits and start again.

Once I’d made up my mind that I wanted to do another round of Medifast, I pitched the idea to Bill. There’s no way I’d last on a restrictive diet if he wasn’t following it with me and I know that about myself. Happily, he readily agreed and said he’d actually love to do it with me. I went online to order the space food (meal replacements) and discovered that after my last round of the diet back in 2017, the company had rebranded and was now called Optavia. As far as I can tell, the food is mostly the same but there’s a new emphasis on having a coach to help dieters along the way. I’m not looking for that; I just want to eat the food and lose weight. It took some doing, but I finally figured out how to place an order for a variety of space food bars, and once they arrive I’ll be all set to start this diet.

Bill and I are going on vacation to Hermosa Beach next week, so my plan is to enjoy the trip and then start Optavia/Medifast once we get home from the trip and continue it until the week of Thanksgiving. That will give us six weeks to really immerse ourselves in both the diet and in breaking our unhealthy food habits and hopefully being able to lean into a lifestyle change going forward.

I absolutely do not expect that I can follow this diet for six weeks and then simply not gain anything back; I know for sure that over the holidays I will put back on some of the weight. My genuine hope is that by having six weeks of real progress, I’ll feel better and that I’ll experience a genuine mindset shift where my health is a greater priority to me than eating.

Reflecting on Buying New Appliances

Last year, in lieu of Christmas presents, I bought new appliances for our kitchen. It’s the first time in my life that I have kitchen appliances I chose myself; always, in the past, I just used whatever came with the house I had purchased or (more often) was renting. Although when Bill and I bought our condo three years ago I did have some vague ideas about things I wanted to do to upgrade it, we didn’t really do anything until we found ourselves locked down when the pandemic hit last year. We did some projects like replacing the hideously ugly lighting fixture in our dining room and swapping out the brass door handles, hinges, and other hardware for matte black, and those seemingly little updates made a big difference in the overall look and feel of the place.

Around October, we started having issues with our stove. It was probably the original that came with the condo when it was built in 2002, and it was definitely not high-end even when it was new. One of the front burners didn’t really like to light, and one morning when I preheated the oven to make my breakfast eggs, the oven wouldn’t get hot anymore (this issue resolved itself a few days later, while Bill was on the phone with a repairman – figures). Rather than wait for further problems to crop up, I decided that I was going to take some of the money I’d been able to save last year and treat us to our first set of brand-new appliances.

It took several weeks to have everything delivered and installed, and we didn’t get the new stove until after Christmas because the first one we got was badly damaged in transit and looked like someone had thrown it down a mountain, but eventually we did get our new microwave, fridge, stove, and dishwasher. The stove is by far my favorite of the new items (although the fridge, with its roomy freezer and separate drawer just for drinks, is a close second). I’ve discovered a love of cooking and there’s something so soothing after a long day about chopping, prepping, and cooking a favorite meal. I’ve branched out a lot and tried more and more complicated recipes that I would probably have been afraid to even attempt a few years ago. Bill also enjoys cooking and agrees that the new appliances are a huge upgrade in our house.

I was incredibly proud of myself for being able to make such major purchases and to feel very confident that I could afford them, without needing to put them on a credit card (pro tip: I actually DID purchase them with my credit card, so that I could get the rewards points – I just paid them off right away). Not only does it make me happy that I’m able to do more than just pay for basic expenses every month and I was able to save up the money for new things, but it makes my home nicer and more enjoyable having appliances that work well and look great in the kitchen. Even when I’m just making my morning coffee, being in a bright and cheery kitchen sets a good tone for my day. And making meals is not a chore to me, it’s something I enjoy doing and feel proud of.

Goals for September

After taking August off from monthly goal-setting, I’m feeling more motivated to get back into it for the month of September. I took most of last week off from working out and it seems to have helped a lot – this week, I’m back to being able to wake up and get up for my workouts without feeling super sluggish. Yesterday I had great energy all day. Today I hit that 2pm slump for sure and was slightly wishing for a nap, but I was able to push through it and get through my afternoon meetings.

Bill and I are supposed to leave for a vacation in Hermosa Beach in October, and I really want to look and feel my best for that trip. My goals for September are designed to help with that.

Average 10,000 steps per day. I haven’t hit this step goal in a few months now but I really want to get back into the habit of walking more. I love being outside even in gloomy weather and I feel better when I’m getting my walks in regularly.

Eat my pre-planned snacks every weekday. My usual snack fare for workdays is an apple in the mornings and a Greek yogurt in the afternoons. This goal isn’t about limiting my snacking, but normally if I reach for my planned snacks first I find that they satisfy my hunger and I don’t need to eat anything else. If I forgo them and nosh on chips or popcorn instead, I eat more calories and usually still don’t feel as satisfied as I would if I’d just eaten my apple and my yogurt.

If I feel like snacking, have a cup of tea first and see if the craving goes away. There will be days when I am legitimately hungrier than normal and that’s okay, but I want to get out of the habit of just automatically reaching for an additional snack. I’ve been drinking decaf tea when I want something warm but don’t need the extra caffeine, and I’ve noticed that I don’t feel like snacking as much when I do. If I have the tea and still feel hungry afterwards, then I can have another snack – and I keep Boom Chicka Pop sea salt popcorn and Clif nut butter bars in the pantry for days when I want something extra.

Strength-train at least four days a week. I just started a new workout program called MBF (Muscle Burns Fat) this week, and although it’s a seven-day-a-week program I don’t like working out that much. My plan is to do four or five of the workouts each week and see how that feels.

Be at least 80% consistent in my calorie cycling. I was only 68% consistent in August and down about a pound, but ultimately I want to be at 80% consistency every month without giving it a second thought.

Taking Some Rest Time

Yesterday Bill and I cleaned the house and I washed sheets and towels, so we were able to go to sleep in a nice clean bed and wake up to a tidy house. This delighted me immeasurably.

Getting good sleep last night was something I desperately needed. Over the last few weeks I’ve been having a really, really hard time waking up for my workouts. Monday morning, I increased the amount of weight I lift, and by the afternoon my lower back was starting to spasm. Yesterday I woke up feeling lightheaded and sort of dizzy, but went for a walk anyway because I wanted to get in some sort of exercise even if I didn’t feel up to strength training. I probably should’ve just rested because I felt awful for most of the day and ended up needing to lie down for a bit in the afternoon. This morning when I woke up I still felt tired, so I let myself rest instead of trying to push through and work out.

I think that I struggle with resting when I really need to because I’ve been super consistent all year in my workouts and I absolutely hate the thought of losing that momentum. I haven’t missed a workout in months and I don’t like the idea of ending that streak, but at the same time I also know that I’m going to get hurt or sick if I don’t take it easy right now. I can tell the difference between feeling a little sleepy and just needing to push through it, and actually being rundown and needing the rest. Right now, I’m legitimately rundown and actually feeling frustrated about it.

I’ve also been beyond hungry the last couple of days. My normal weekday routine meals and snacks are not even close to enough and I’ve been starving in between. I know that I can lose weight in a calorie deficit, but I also know that certain foods give way more benefits than others – 100 calories of chocolate is the same as 100 calories of apple, but the apple has fiber and nutritional value and is going to keep me full longer than the chocolate will. I’m definitely noticing that I need to swap out some of my food choices so that I feel less hungry in between meals.

What I like about all this is that I’m feeling a lot more dialed in to how my workout and food choices are making me feel, rather than just what they translate to on the scale. For me, that’s progress. I’m starting to notice that when I don’t eat enough protein, when I eat too much in general, or when I have a few drinks, it throws off my sleep for at least a night. That leaves me feeling sluggish in the morning, so my workouts are impacted, and my overall mood is more morose when I’m tired. Choosing to make changes because it’ll help me feel stronger and more energetic feels like a bigger payoff than doing it just to be thinner.

Things That Make Me Happy

Last week I wrote a post about how I had been struggling with burnout. Truthfully this week started off even worse, due to a combination of terrible things happening in the world, but I’m trying to work on getting myself into a better headspace by finding little things that make me happy and treating myself to as many of them as possible.

I am a person who definitely enjoys simple pleasures. I don’t need anything grand or extravagant; little happinesses suit me perfectly. Since writing my burnout post I’ve been trying to pay particular attention and take note of the things that have been making me feel good and decided to write about them, so I can look back and have a handy go-to list when I’m feeling blah.

I typically start my workdays with exercise. I like getting my workout done at the beginning of the day and starting my morning with movement tends to put me in a better mood. Once I’m finished working out, I definitely need a shower desperately, but lately I’ve found myself having a lot of anxious and racing thoughts while I shower. Bill recently got a Bluetooth speaker and he helped me sync my phone to it so that I could listen to music while I get ready in the mornings. It’s helped so much with my anxious shower thoughts! Instead of overthinking while I shampoo my hair, I can focus on the music. I created a short “shower playlist” on Spotify for myself and am only putting songs on it that make me feel happy, calm, or energized. So far it’s doing the trick!

I also decided I needed a new evening ritual as I’ve been having trouble falling asleep at night, even though I feel tired. Since I’ve fallen a little bit behind on my 2021 goal to read 24 books by the end of the year, I decided that reading would be the perfect before-bed activity. Nearly every evening for the past week, I’ve brewed myself a cup of lavender chamomile tea and taken it, along with two Dove dark chocolates, to bed with me to read for the last hour before I go to sleep. I had just finished a Jen Lancaster memoir and needed a new book to read, so I chose to begin the Harry Potter series again. I’m halfway through the first book, and honestly even though I remember liking it I quite forgot just how much I love the series. Reading it again is making me SO happy, which is a nice feeling to end the day with.

Speaking of rituals, who washes their hands more often than they ever imagined possible now? Uh, that’d be me. Back at the beginning of the pandemic, hand soap became incredibly difficult to find and I tasked myself with placing orders with Bath & Body Works to stock up on soap and hand sanitizer. Since I was buying everything online, I had no idea what any of it smelled like and was ordering solely based on names of scents that I thought would be nice. Some of the choices I made turned out to be duds, but others are delightful. Over the weekend I needed to replace one of the soaps in our guest bathroom and randomly selected a Violet and Freesia scented one. I washed my hands with it just to try it out, and it was like the clouds parted and the heavens opened up and cascaded down the amazing scent. I liked it so much that I put it in my own bathroom instead and got a different soap for the guest bath. Something about the smell reminds me of when I was living alone in my Victorville apartment, back when I was 22, but I can’t recall what I was using at the time that smelled similar or why it’s triggering a pleasant feeling of memory. The Violet and Freesia soaps aren’t currently available at Bath & Body Works, but I hope they bring it back so I can buy more.

Another scent I’ve been obsessed with lately is the Malicious Women Co. candle I bought for myself on a whim. I have a bunch of different candles from the company, which is woman-owned and based here in Snohomish County, and I really didn’t need another one but I got upset when an anti-vaxxer group started trolling them online and I wanted to show them some support. The new candle is Anxiety Girl, and the scent is Lavender and Coconut Water. I love it and it helps me to be less of an anxiety girl myself.

Feel-good TV has been making me happy lately, too. I was inspired to start re-watching Friends after the reunion special aired earlier this summer, and just like the Harry Potter books, I knew I loved this show but I forgot just how much. Everything about it makes me happy. In addition to re-watching an old favorite, Bill and I discovered the show Ted Lasso on Apple TV, binge-watched the first season, and are now caught up in the second season and watching new episodes as they air. The show is not only funny, but it’s heartwarming and positive and just has a feel-good vibe.

I’m hoping that by focusing on things like this that make me happy, I’ll be able to battle my burnout and start feeling better.

Burnout

This morning, I got up a little earlier than usual so that I could work out before an 8am meeting. In between getting ready for work, I started a load of laundry, cleaned up the kitchen, and ran the dishwasher. I took a shower and had my breakfast, then sipped my first cup of coffee of the day during my meeting.

To an outsider, I’m sure this sounds like I’m doing okay. I’m being productive. But the truth is, seeing dishes in the sink sometimes makes tears well up in my eyes because I just can’t figure out how I’m going to have the energy to wash them. I’ll run a load of laundry in the dryer a second time, not because it’s still damp but because I just can’t make myself fold it yet.

Last week I was feeling anxious and out of sorts and by Tuesday I finally lost it and sobbed as I sat at the desk in my room that is also my workspace now. Sometimes I feel like I barely leave my bedroom, and I wish desperately for a different space to work from but there just isn’t any other place in the house that makes sense. I feel overwhelmed and frustrated and sad. Living through this pandemic for the last year and a half, pressing pause on pretty much every part of my life that I enjoy, and seeing just how little some of my loved ones care about other people has drained my very soul.

This week feels even more difficult, because the heat has returned along with smoke from nearby wildfires. Not only is it hard being cooped up inside because the air is too unhealthy outside to breathe, but I feel so depressed thinking of the fires and all of the loss of life and destruction that comes with them. I remember a time when wildfires were not part of Northwest summers and I hate that we as a species have hurt the very earth we live on so terribly that this is now a normal part of the year.

I know I’m fortunate to have a home and a stable job and that all of my basic needs are met. I am so grateful to all of the people who worked so hard to develop a vaccine so that I could have a little bit of my life back. I count my lucky stars every time I’m able to spend time with friends, because we got so very little of that for a year. I can’t imagine what it’s been like to be an essential worker for the last year and a half, being screamed at and talked down to and mistreated by people you’re trying to help, and it scares me to think that, as bad as I feel right now, that they must be feeling so much worse.

I wish I had something useful or positive to end this post on, but I have no helpful tips or advice for dealing with burnout. I’ve read a lot of articles on the subject and I honestly don’t know that there’s anything in particular that can help. So I guess for now all I can do is accept that I’m not feeling great and hope that writing about it will help purge it from my mind a little. And then I’ll brush away the tears, make another cup of coffee, and tackle my email inbox, because what else can I do but keep on going?