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?

Monthly Goals for August

When I was reviewing my recap of the 30-Day Calorie Cycling Challenge, I realized that the post I’d written earlier in the week for my goals for August never published. Weird! I can’t find it anywhere in my drafts either, but I swear I wrote it and it wasn’t just a fever dream.

Anyway, the short version is that I’m feeling pretty uninspired to set goals for August so I think I’m just going to take this month to enjoy the rest of summer, eat some gelato in the sunshine, and just have fun. I’ll be back to setting monthly goals next month!

Reflecting on the 30-Day Calorie Cycling Challenge

I’ve officially completed Jordan Syatt’s 30-Day Calorie Cycling Challenge, and I am so grateful that I chose to do it! I didn’t lose a lot of weight, but I did learn a lot about how to count calories more effectively and I have hope that I’ve found a way to calorie-count my way back down to goal weight.

So, what are my biggest takeaways from the challenge? The best thing, I think, is that calorie cycling can be done while following one of my rules for myself: don’t do anything to lose weight that you aren’t willing to do for the rest of your life. I’ve counted calories for well over a decade of my life already, and I can easily imagine myself continuing to do it and not struggling with it. There was no restriction, and no off-limits foods. I could have whatever I wanted, I just had to budget for it.

I also learned why I wasn’t losing weight earlier this year with goals like “stay under my calorie allotment 75% of the time”. Now I see that the problem with goals like that is that I wasn’t truly eating in a calorie deficit. By eating up to 1,500 calories on a normal day, PLUS having a day or two a week where I didn’t count or I allowed myself to have as many calories as I wanted, I was eating far more than I should be to lose weight. Once it clicked for me that I needed to look at average calories per day, and that I needed to keep THAT number at 1,500, I began to understand why I wasn’t seeing more success before.

I absolutely plan to continue eating this way. My goal weight (ideally, in a perfect universe, but it’s okay if I don’t actually get back to it) is 125lbs.

Here’s how calorie cycling actually works. First, I needed to decide what my goal weight was, so that I could determine how many calories per day I needed to average in order to reach that weight. For me, in a perfect ideal universe, my goal weight is 125lbs. That was the weight I maintained from 2012-2014, and I felt great at that weight. I know it may not happen for me, as I’m older and my lifestyle is different, but I figure it’s as good as any a goal to try for.

To get the number of average daily calories I need to get to that weight, I multiply the number by 12. So, 125*12 = 1,500. Easy, right? Then I break my week out into high days and low days, giving myself three high days and four low days each week. On high days, I can have up to 1,800 calories, and on low days I can have up to 1,275.

I made up my own structure for high days and low days based on my life and schedule. For my tracking purposes, I think of a week as starting on Monday and ending on Sunday. My first high day each week is Wednesday, since Bill and I always get together with another couple that we’re close friends with for dinner and drinks. We also really enjoy going out to eat on a patio somewhere or getting takeout on Saturdays, so Saturday is a high day. For my third high day, it can be any day during the week, but I usually pick Friday or Sunday. I just have to keep in mind that if I use my high day on Friday, I have to stick to my low day on Sunday. For me, having the flexibility to choose my third high day each week based on our plans really helps keep me on track.

In order to complete the 30-Day Challenge and get a shot at winning the cash prize, I had to submit before and after photos as well as a 500-word essay about my experience with the challenge. I might share the essay in a future post after winners are announced, and hopefully I’ll be one of those winners!

Recap of July Goals

The month of July was a whirlwind! For the most part, it was a really fun month. I had a blast celebrating my birthday with friends and getting away for a night to Leavenworth with Bill. There were also some really difficult times as a family member struggled with some health issues – happily, they are now on the mend and I’m far less concerned than I was a few weeks ago.

I was extremely proud of myself for completing the 9-Week Control Freak workout program with complete consistency. I never missed a workout and I can definitely tell that I’ve leaned out a bit and put on some muscle. Today I started a new round of LIIFT4 which is one of my favorite Beachbody on Demand programs. It’s focused on strength training, and it’s only four days a week which is awesome (9WCF was five days a week) for eight weeks.

Here’s the recap of how I did with my goals for July:

Begin the Calorie Cycling Challenge successfully. Although this challenge isn’t officially over until August 4th, I finished July with an 81% consistency rate for following the calorie cycling methodology I’ve set for myself. What that means is that on six of the thirty-one days of July, my calories exceeded my goal for the day, whether it was a “low” or a “high” day. 81% consistency is really good! Unfortunately it didn’t translate into much in the way of weight loss, but if I’m being honest with myself I also didn’t count calories as thoroughly as I could have and there’s definitely a possibility that I underestimated calorie values in some of the things I ate and drank. For August I’ve pulled out the food scale and I’m working on actually measuring things so that I can track more accurately. My overall average calories per day for the month of July came in at 1,563.

Walk an average of 10,000 steps per day. I got so close to this goal in July! My final monthly average steps per day came in at 9,799.

Log my weight daily in LoseIt. I did log my weight daily, but halfway through the month I switched from tracking weight in LoseIt to tracking in the Inner Circle app that Jordan Syatt created. I like the graph and the trendline presentation on the IC platform better than LoseIt’s, although I still love LoseIt for tracking food.

Review my LoseIt logs from 2012-2013. I looked back on these logs, and what I learned is that back then I was basically calorie cycling but didn’t realize what exactly I was doing. I remember that back then I had a daily goal of eating 1,200 calories, so that’s what I would aim for, but I didn’t get too bothered if I went over by a little bit on weekends or on days when I worked out hard. It showed me that what I’m doing now is really the same as what I did to lose the weight before, so I’m hopeful that it’s going to work again!