Motivation Monday: Progress Feels Great

(Note: I haven’t done a post in my Motivation Monday series for literally years, but I thought I’d try bringing it back this month to help me stay on track with my goals.)

We’re five days into April, and already I’m seeing the benefits of my 30-Day challenge and feeling more confident in my ability to meet the monthly goals I set for myself. I still had some slips in nutrition over the weekend, but I did notice myself being a little more mindful of what I was indulging in. I had my Shakeology shakes as my lunches all weekend, and on Saturday not only did Bill and I do a Pilates workout together, but I also walked over six and a half miles with friends of mine! I wouldn’t have done that before, and we had such a good time that I’m hoping I can convince them to do it with me again. And last night I made a nice sockeye salmon with some green beans for dinner, which was tasty and in line with my goal to prepare more fish for dinner.

This morning Bill’s foot was bothering him, and normally I would have taken that as an excuse to skip working out. But then I thought about my Fit Happens challenge and I wanted to log a full workout and not just a walk for today, so instead of opting out of exercising altogether I suggested an upper body workout that wouldn’t strain his foot. We did it and I am so happy!

I feel like my mindset is starting to shift, and I suspect that one of the things that’s helping is that I’m accountable to the others in my 30-Day Challenge. If I’m not logging my workouts and shakes, they’re going to wonder where I am, and besides that I really want to complete this challenge successfully for myself! This reminds me of when I first started going to Zumba classes all those years ago. Before it became a passion of mine, I relied on friends in the class to check in with me and keep me accountable for going, and they never let me down. And once I became hard-core-obsessed with Zumba and was loathe to ever miss a night, I was able to help more new people be accountable for going too.

Right now I feel great about myself and my progress. I can only imagine how good I’ll feel by the end of April if I keep this up!

My Goals for April

It’s a new month and I feel VERY hopeful that I can make some progress in achieving my weight loss goals in the next thirty days. The weather is getting better which means more outside time, and I joined a 30-Day Beachbody Challenge with my coach and a group of other friends she’s connected with to help keep me motivated. I’m also starting a twelve-week group therapy class to help with some of the stress and anxiety I’ve been feeling lately, and I’m really hoping that reducing stress will give me a lot better quality of life overall.

So with that, here are my goals for April!

Stay under my allotted calories four days a week. I haven’t been doing a great job with my nutrition and I think that part of my failure is that I was just being too aggressive with my goals starting out. For this month, I’m just going to try and stay under my calorie goal four days per week. Since April begins on a Thursday this year, I’ll just count my weeks as Thursday-Wednesday.

Strength-train four days per week. I still really like this goal and I’m making it again because I want to have additional motivation to keep going with my workouts. Bill and I just started a new program on Beachbody on Demand called T25, and so far I’m enjoying it. It’s fast-paced and a lot different than workouts we’ve been doing lately, and I’m happy we’re changing it up. Plus, as the name suggests, the workouts are only 25 minutes long, and I like a short workout even if it’s intense!

Average 8,000 steps per day. Because the weather is getting nicer and because I did so well with my steps for March, I’ve increased my goal by 500 steps/day from last month’s goal. I really believe I can do this, especially since a friend of mine recently said she’d like to start getting together and going for walks. Spending time with a person I love is definitely motivation!

Complete the Fit Happens 30-Day Beachbody Challenge. There will be two challenges running simultaneously in my online fit group this month – a daily workout/movement log with a photo, and a daily Shakeology log with a photo. For fitness I’ll have my strength training four days a week, and my plan is to add in long walks and active recovery workouts on teh other days. During the week I use Shakeology as a meal replacement for lunch, so this will encourage me to plan it as a part of my day on weekends too. I have zero excuses not to – I work from home, I’m completely in control of my nutrition, and I have the support system of the others in my group.

Serve at least one dinner per week that has fish as the protein. Fish has a ton of health benefits and I know it should be more present in my diet than it currently is, so I’m going to make a point to add it into our rotation in April. I actually really like fish, but in the past was intimidated at the thought of cooking it. Since discovering over the last couple of years that I actually really enjoy trying new recipes, I’m less nervous, and I want to try my hand at preparing tasty fish dishes.

Monthly Goals for March

I woke up this morning sort of in shock that it’s already March. In addition to feeling like this year is absolutely racing by, realizing it’s March also means it’s been a year now since COVID-19 completely changed our lives. My last day working in an office was March 5th; now I don’t even have a desk in that office anymore and my company is in the process of moving out of that building and I likely won’t have a new location assigned until the end of the year.

February was largely a throw-away month for me with regard to my goals. I didn’t make any progress at all with losing weight, and my eating habits were far more indulgent than I’d allowed myself to be in January. It made me see that I really do need a monthly goal for my calorie intake; when I set a goal to stay under my allotted calories in January, I did much better than I did without any sort of goal like that in February. I’m in this weird place mentally where I really do want to lose weight and eat healthier, but I have a hard time making myself follow through with any sort of lasting change. During the week I have a pretty easy time following my healthy eating plan and doing my workouts, but once Friday night hits I lose my damn mind and don’t seem to recover myself until Monday morning (and a wave of regret) hits. I have to figure out how to be healthier on weekends or I’m never going to break this cycle.

With all that in mind, I’ve designed goals for March to hopefully support the habits I’ve formed that I’m proud of, while putting me in a position to (hopefully) finally start losing some weight.

Continue strength training four times a week. Last week, Bill and I finished the eight-week LIIFT4 program that we began at the start of 2021. I definitely feel stronger and proud of my progress, but I don’t want to let this good habit fall away now that we’ve finished the program. This morning, we started a new workout program on Beachbody on Demand called The Prep. Unlike LIIFT4, which is a four-day-per-week program, The Prep is designed to be six days a week – but since I don’t really want to have to commit to doing six days a week of workouts, our plan is to just modify it and do four of the workouts per week. It’ll take us longer to complete, but that’s okay, and I’ve talked to other people who have modified programs similarly and still gotten great results. The first workout this morning was killer, which is probably a sign that switching it up was a good idea.

Stay under my allotted calories six days per week. This goal worked well for me in January so I’m bringing it back. Currently my goal is to stay under 1,600 calories a day, knowing that if I can keep myself a little below that goal every day during the week that it’ll help offset having more food on weekends.

Average 7,500 steps per day. I didn’t do a step goal in February, mostly because the weather was wet, cold, and at times snowy, and it was hard to get outside. I’m not exactly a fair-weather walker but trudging through slippery ice and snow is not my idea of a fun time. Now that it’s nearly spring, I’m hoping that the weather will be a bit milder and it’ll be possible to get out and walk more.

Cook dinner at least one weekend night and eat that meal at the table. Growing up, my family always had dinner together, sitting at the dining room table. This did not carry into my adult life, and most nights Bill and I eat on the couch while we watch tv. We enjoy our ritual of watching different shows together, so I don’t want to stop doing it, but my intent with this goal is to not only make sure that we limit our takeout a bit on weekends but also that we eat more mindfully on at least one weekend night.

Pick one non-eating-related activity per weekend to do with Bill. Whether we go for a walk, a bike ride, a hike, a drive, or do an additional workout, I want to focus on non-food entertainment on weekends. When the weather’s nice, we like to walk into downtown Edmonds and wander along the waterfront. Whatever we decide to do, I want to incorporate this into our lives so that nice meals aren’t our only way to relax and connect with each other after a long week of work.

Monthly Goals for February

I don’t usually write two posts on the same day but I wanted to blog my goals for February after recapping how things went in January. While everything didn’t go exactly the way I’d planned, I did learn from my missteps and I have some ideas for adjusting February goals to address the issues I had last month.

Weigh and measure portions. I tracked everything I ate in January, and according to my LoseIt app I only exceeded my calorie goals on six days throughout the month. However, if that were true I would have lost weight in January, which I did not. The most likely reason for this is that I under-tracked the calories I ate. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before today that I needed to weigh out my meals, but now that it has it feels really obvious to me. I might be able to eventually measure out around four ounces of chicken fairly accurately by sight, but I’m willing to bet I’m not doing it right now. I’m prepared for the side effect of this goal being that I’m probably going to be hungrier than normal in February while I adjust to what I suspect will be smaller portions than I’m used to.

Plan snacks for the day in the morning and stick to the plan. I have my weekday breakfasts, lunches, and snacks pre-planned, but I noticed in January that I always crave additional snacks in the afternoons. I think it must be related to the stress of my workdays, because it doesn’t happen on weekends. My go-to weekday snacks are apple slices in the morning and Greek yogurt mid-afternoon, so in February I am going to focus on tracking my snacks in my LoseIt app first things in the morning and then only eating what I had committed to having for snacks.

Finish Season 16 of Grey’s Anatomy. I feel like I need a “fun” goal, so that’s why I’m adding this one. I was an avid Grey’s fan until 2014, when I didn’t have cable service and couldn’t watch the new episodes. I fell way behind on the show, but in 2020 I decided to start it from the beginning and watch all the way through (the show is currently airing Season 17). Bill doesn’t like medical dramas and won’t watch it with me, so I watch an episode or two while I take baths or when he works later than I do, and I’m about halfway through Season 16 now. I want to finish it and start on the current season!

Address my increasing anxiety. Fun fact: being stressed out can make it harder to lose weight. Stress increases cortisol levels, which in turn can cause weight gain. Human bodies haven’t evolved as fast as our environment has, so our bodies largely attribute stress with lack of access to adequate food supply – because that’s what originally stressed people out. High stress levels can bring on fun things like fatigue, increased appetite, thinning skin, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

I know I have anxiety and I also know that my stress levels have been through the roof lately. I think my problems are a combination of having lived mid-pandemic for nearly a year now and the fact that I’m an empath and other people’s feelings and emotions have a big impact on me.

I know that I can’t meet my weight loss goals OR be happy until I address my anxiety. I have a number of coping mechanisms I’ve been taught over the years to deal with stress and anxiety, and I’ve also reached out to my health insurance provider for a referral to help with mental health.

January Goal Check-In

That felt like the fastest January I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Normally, the first month of the year feels like it drags on for an eternity, but not in 2021! Even though I feel like we were just raising a glass while we counted down to the new year, January is already over and it’s time to make some February Goals. Before I get into my new monthly goals, I thought I’d write a quick check-in on how January went.

Stick to my calorie count goal six days a week. I counted the days that I ate over my calorie goal, and in January there were six days in total – two more days than I’d hoped for, but still better than I’d been doing for the last few months of 2020. I’ve heard about the 80/20 rule (stick to your calorie goal 80% of the time), and I did accomplish that.

What I noticed though, is that even though I tracked everything I ate and believed that I was doing a better job with my eating, I didn’t lose weight in January. I did drop a couple of pounds early on, but those came back by the end of the month so ultimately the changes I made only helped me maintain my current weight. I’m pretty sure that I’m underestimating what I’m eating and tracking fewer calories than I’m actually eating; albeit unintentionally. This is something to address for February.

Weigh myself every day. I achieved this one on 30 out of 31 days (we stayed in a hotel one night and I wasn’t committed enough to this goal to pack my scale along). It was good to have the data, and it definitely showed me that I need to review what I’m doing and make some changes if I want to see weight loss.

Drink more water. I did really well on this one overall. Since I didn’t set a tangible metric I wasn’t measuring ounces or anything like that, but I definitely got into the habit of filling up my Hydro Flask for the day and drinking more water.

No alcohol. Dry January had….a few showers. We gave in to the urge and had drinks with dinner on four nights last month. But that was a huge improvement for us!

Average 7,500 steps/day each week. I didn’t quite make it with this one. Overall for the month of January I averaged 6,307 steps per day, which was quite a bit short of my goal. The biggest reason I didn’t make it was the record rainfall in Washington last month; there were multiple days where it was absolutely pouring outside and it was just too gross outside for walking. I’m hoping that as we move into spring that I’ll be able to get out more. I miss my walks!

I don’t really know how to feel about January. Going in, I thought I had set realistic goals that I could easily meet and that would guarantee me weight loss, but obviously that turned out not to be true. Some changes I’m pleased with, others not so much, and I’m going to take those feelings into account for my February goals. I’m using this as data to adjust my goals and habits and not beating myself up over not achieving everything I’d planned, because one of my 2021 Resolutions was to be nicer to myself. I’m still on track for all of my resolutions, so that’s a very good thing!

Where I’m at with Health and Fitness (and Where I Want to Be)

This year I have a renewed drive to set and achieve goals, which was probably apparent with my goals for January and for 2021. And in looking at those goals I think it’s obvious that I’m hoping to achieve weight loss and improved health this year.

I’ve learned so much about myself and what I want over the last ten years. When I went to my first Zumba class in October 2010, I started to learn that I didn’t want to just be thin, but fit. Zumba taught me that I can actually enjoy being active and pursuing athletic activities. Even though my beloved Zumba class isn’t there anymore, I’ve found other ways to stay active and healthy. I’ve always enjoyed going for walks outside, and when I began working from home and couldn’t go with my coworkers anymore Bill started going with me. It’s now one of my favorite parts of the day and I enjoy getting to take a break, get some fresh air, and spend time with him. I had found a new dance class at a local gym that I absolutely loved, but when the pandemic shut things down I started working out at home by following Beachbody workouts. Although it’s always tough for me to get up and get moving, I’ve grown to really enjoy those first-thing-in-the-morning workouts. As we move into spring, Bill and I have vowed to get back into cycling and spend more time on our bikes.

When I achieved my weight-loss goals in my late twenties, I didn’t follow any diet or plan. Instead, I channeled the things that I’d learned over the years about nutrition and put them into practice, combined with logging my food in the LoseIt app and practicing portion control. I never restricted any foods; everything was allowed in moderation. I wish I could say that I’d stuck to this practice, but after turning 30 I gained a little weight and as a knee-jerk reaction I went on a pretty restrictive diet. The weight came off….and then came on again, plus some. Instead of going back to what I knew worked, I went back on a diet again…and again. Nothing worked (which should not be shocking, because diets do not work if they’re not sustainable long-term). I did all the fad programs: Medifast, Weight Watchers, Dukan. All came with an initial rush of results followed by misery and me ultimately falling off the program because I’d get so tired of restricting. A few years ago I drew a line in the sand and vowed that I wasn’t going to go on another diet, EVER, and I meant it. I’m proud to say that I’ve kept that promise to myself and that I’ve stayed away from diets, even as friends embark on their Paleo or Keto or whatever-else journeys.

And that brings me to where I am now: anti-diet (but with some extra pounds I’m ready to bid farewell to) and proud at how consistently I exercise and move my body. As far as fitness level goes, I feel like I’m in a great place and I want to use this year to do some hikes, some long bike rides, and of course lots of lunchtime walks. As far as my eating habits go, I’m ready to push myself to do better so I can (hopefully!) finally shed the extra pounds my foray into dieting left me with.

The only thing that has ever worked for me long-term is calorie counting, so that’s what I’m planning on doing in 2021. I’ve been using Jordan Syatt’s calorie counter to get a baseline of how many calories I can eat every day and still be in a deficit, which happily is not 1,200 (do you guys remember when for some reason eating 1,200 calories a day was like the gold standard for losing weight?). For my weekday breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, I’ve largely just reverted to what I used to eat when I was at my goal weight, but now I eat egg whites with veggies for breakfast instead of an Eggo waffle with peanut butter smeared on it. While the Eggo was arguably far more delicious, I can concede that the egg whites and vegetables have a lot more nutritional value. My go-to snacks are apple slices mid-morning and a Greek yogurt mid-afternoon, and for lunch I just have a Shakeology shake made with almond milk.

I like to cook a lot more than I used to, and home-cooked meals are a big help when trying to lose weight because I actually know what the heck is in my food. Although I love takeout as much as the next girl and I will freely admit that I fantasize at least once a week about the day when I can finally dine inside of a restaurant without fear of catching the plague, it’s really hard to track calories in restaurant food since it’s next to impossible to know exactly how it was prepared. Because Bill and I place a grocery order for curbside pickup once a week now and don’t do our shopping in-person, I have no choice but to meal plan for the week ahead so that I know what food to buy. At times this can be a little annoying because I can’t think of a week when I actually got all the things I wanted in my grocery order, but overall it works pretty well. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they don’t like it when someone else picks out their produce, but my particular grocery store does a nice job overall of giving me fresh fruits and veggies and I only had an issue one time, when I wanted to make roasted tri-color potatoes as a side dish but instead of my little bag of tri-color potatoes I got a single red potato, which would have been fine as a substitute had it been, say, a half pound of red potatoes, instead of just a single little red potato. That was odd, but it’s only happened one time so I just chalk it up to an amusing little story about curbside grocery orders.

One of the things Jordan Syatt says regularly that gives me hope is “You can’t fuck this up”. I know I need to hear that when I’ve had a stressful week and dealt with said stress by baking a double-layer chocolate cake and eating a slab of that cake every night after dinner for five days in a row. But even with cake, as long as I don’t give up I haven’t failed, because I can’t fuck this up. Five days in a row of really healthy eating never yielded dramatic results so five days in a row of cake for dessert isn’t going to yield dramatic setbacks.

I know where I want to be, and I’m going to get there, because I can’t fuck this up.

Monthly Goals for January

Happy 2021! It’s the first day of a brand new year, and I dearly love a fresh start. To kick off the new year, I’m making my goal list for the month of January.

Stick to my calorie count goal six days a week. This gives me one day where I can have a higher-calorie meal, but also gives me motivation to start working to building healthier habits. At the end of the day, losing or maintaining weight is all about calories in/calories out, so tracking my food every day will help me to be more cognizant of what I’m eating.

Weigh myself every day. I know some people think that this is a destructive habit, but for me it’s useful. I love data and I think it’s super interesting to see how different meals impact what I weigh the next day. And I won’t be hyper-focused on the day-to-day changes, but the changes from one month to the next.

Drink more water. I always have a 20-ounce tumbler of water next to my bed so I can drink water first thing in the morning, and my goal is to fill up my 32-ounce Hydroflask while I make my breakfast in the mornings so I can drink it throughout the day.

No alcohol. Bill and I have committed to participating in Dry January with some friends, and I think after the holidays the break from drinks will be a welcome one.

Average 7,500 steps/day each week. I’m putting this as an average daily number each week because while I love getting out and taking walks, I also know that January tends to be very cold and rainy and there will be days where the weather is just too gross to venture out.

10 Pounds Down in 2020

In January, I made the same vow that many people make at the beginning of the year: I was going to develop healthier habits, get fit, and lose weight. I didn’t want to follow a diet plan or do anything extreme; instead, I decided that I would make small changes that I felt I could live with for the rest of my life, and see where that would take me.
I was doing really well and seeing good results….and then in the first few days of March my whole life changed when, in response to COVID-19, I was immediately transitioned to working from home full-time. A few days after that, my gym was closed down, and by mid-March Washington was under a stay-at-home order. To be honest, March felt like the longest month ever.
Early on, I sort of lost my mind as I transitioned from shopping in-store to placing our grocery orders online. I was adding all kinds of junk food to them, stuff that I hadn’t eaten in years that all of a sudden I was craving. I justified this by thinking of it as comfort food during a stressful time, but I realized pretty quickly that this wasn’t a good strategy. Determined to get back on track, I started reading blogs and articles written by people who worked at home full-time before the pandemic to get their tips on how to be successful. The overall theme was a recommendation to create a routine and stick to it.
Following that advice, Bill and I developed a schedule in which we would wake up and work out first thing, before we logged in to work for the day. I’ve continued to meal-prep my breakfasts of egg whites and veggies for the work week so that breakfast is fast and I don’t have to think about it, and we plan lunches and dinners ahead of time when we place our grocery orders. Once a week, we get takeout from one of the local restaurants we love so that we can continue to show them support.
Now that we’ve been home for over four months, our routine is solid. Monday through Thursday, we work out before work, and on Fridays we clean the house before work so that our chores are done and we can relax on the weekend (okay, so that I can relax on the weekend…I can never chill out if the house is a mess!). We still get ready and dress for work, albeit much more casually than we did when we went into our offices, but we’re not working in our pajamas to be sure. I eat the same breakfasts, lunches, and snacks at the same times throughout the workday that I did when I was packing food to go to the office. We end our workday with a long walk, to help us mentally transition from work to relaxing. On weekends, we rarely have plans anymore, but we like to take walks into downtown Edmonds.
I’m really pleased about how active we are now that we’re home full-time. I miss the dance classes I used to take at my gym a lot, but I’ve really enjoyed our walks and morning workouts. A few months before we got married in 2017, a former coworker introduced me to Beachbody on Demand for at-home workouts. I’ve kept it as a backup option so that I could still work out on days I wasn’t able to get to the gym, and now it’s a lifesaver. It’s nice having an app that gives me access to so many different workouts that I can do in around 30 minutes.
So far I’m down 10 pounds in 2020, and I am super proud of myself for being able to make progress despite the pandemic, even if that progress has sometimes felt achingly slow. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m a whole lot closer.

Be Nice to the New Kids at the Gym

In October 2010, my friend Angela finally coaxed me to go to Zumba with her after months of asking (read: borderline harassing) me to go. It was a special night for her: she had her Weight Watchers meeting that evening before Zumba class, and that night she achieved her goal of 100lbs lost. Because I knew she was close to the milestone, I went with her that night to cheer her on. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would immediately fall in love with Zumba – so much so that I did back-to-back classes that night. I’ve been doing some sort of dance fitness ever since.
It’s January, and for a lot of people that means New Year’s resolutions. This can be evidenced by the once-empty parking lots at gyms that are now packed with cars and the influx of new faces in workout classes. The gym I belong to is pretty well-attended no matter what time of year it is, but even I have seen an increase in class sizes when I go to dance. And it’s easy to gripe about having to park farther away, or needing to arrive earlier, to accommodate these new people who may not even stick around into mid-February…but instead, I think it’s a good idea to be welcoming to those people and to be excited that there are new people who are doing good things for themselves to kick off the new year.
Part of the reason I stuck with Zumba is because I received a warm welcome and a ton of support from the class regulars. Had I been treated like an outsider, I probably wouldn’t have lasted very long. And the same idea goes for new gym members. They deserve to be in the gym and in classes, just as much as we regulars do. They paid the fee to be there, they are looking for what we’ve found – a way to get exercise that they can commit to, that doesn’t fill them with hate and dread. So don’t be an asshole to new people at the gym. Show them kindness. Make room for them in classes. Show them that they’re welcome. It’ll help them become regulars themselves.
 

Red Hot Dance

Seven years ago, a coworker invited me to her favorite Zumba class, led by her good friend Nancy. It was a life-changing night for both of us; for her, it was the night she officially weighed 100lbs less than she had nine months before, and for me, it was the night I discovered a passion for dance.
I loved Zumba, and attended three to five classes a week. I would rearrange my work schedule to make sure I could go. I brought friends with me and got them hooked too.  In 2013, my friend Kate and I even got certified to be Zumba instructors and led a class together (she went on to be a favorite instructor alongside Nancy).
After moving out of the area, I did still attend Nancy’s Zumba class every now and then, but it was ultimately too far to drive. I found Beachbody On Demand, which I love, and it was a great tool for keeping me consistent in my workouts. Still, I missed Zumba terribly.
A few weeks ago, my friend Kelly was telling me about Harbor Square Athletic Club, the new gym she and her husband had just joined. She encouraged me to get a six-day pass to check it out, and I’m glad I did. I love working out with her, and I cannot say enough nice things about Harbor Square. Everything is so modern and clean, the studios for group classes are spacious, and the women’s locker room was recently remodeled and is absolutely beautiful. There’s a smoothie bar, tennis courts, and a pool for lap swim (and you can reserve lanes for swimming!). I loved it instantly, and after taking Husband with me to check it out we ultimately became members.
When I looked at the group class schedule, I was a little bummed that there were only a couple of weekday morning Zumba classes, but I was intrigued when I saw an evening class called Red Hot Dance. The schedule described RHD as a “fun, exhilarating, calorie-burning dance party”.
Kelly and I went, and I was instantly hooked. The class was SO much fun! The dance steps were similar to the ones I loved at Nancy’s Zumba classes, the songs were fun to dance to, and I felt so happy dancing again. Some of the moves were pretty challenging (my body is 15lbs heavier now, and let me know it all through class) but I’m hoping that with time and practice I’ll get my former groove back. I am so happy to have dance in my life again!