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.

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.

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!

9-Week Control Freak: Day 1

Today is the day that everyone in my Beachbody group has been eagerly awaiting: the new 9-Week Control Freak program is now available in the On Demand library!

9-Week Control freak is the latest program from trainer Autumn Calabrese. When I first joined Beachbody On Demand, Autumn’s 21-Day Fix was the program that I followed and I really liked it, so I’ve been excited to try the latest workouts she created. 9WCF is a 9-week at-home workout program, with each workout lasting around half an hour. I love getting my workout over in 30 minutes, and Autumn is great at kicking my ass quickly!

There are two versions of the program so that anyone who works out at home can follow it. The first one includes equipment like door- or wall-mounted resistance bands, a core ball, and a step, but the second one is a dumbbell-only option called Off the Wall. Bill and I are following the second one, because we work out in our living room and we just don’t have room for all of the other equipment that the first version requires (especially the control tracks with the resistance bands – that is, unless Beachbody can figure out how to come out with a set that attaches to the back of my sectional couch). The only thing that some people may not like about Off the Wall is that not every single workout is unique; it offers five workouts for each of the three phases that can be cycled through to complete the nine weeks.

Of course, Beachbody is a business, and they want to sell their products, so there are lots of supplements and nutrition containers and all kinds of other stuff that they encourage using while doing the program. I’m a calorie counter for life and I don’t have any desire to change that, so I’m opting to stick with my LoseIt app for tracking my food. I do drink Shakeology every day because I like it, but I absolutely don’t believe that doing so is vital to success with this or any workout program.

Bill and I did the first workout this morning, and I really enjoyed it. The main workout consisted of completing a circuit of five different moves, twelve reps each, as many times as we could in twelve minutes. After that was the Tabata Cardio portion. Neither of us knew what the heck Tabata was, but we now have learned that it’s a form of high-intensity interval training that forces you to work at a very high intensity for short periods of time. For the first workout we did eight rounds of mountain climbers, working for ten seconds and then resting for twenty seconds before going into the next round. I liked that because I typically do not enjoy cardio and really have to push myself mentally. Knowing that I only had to do it for ten seconds at a time helped me to work harder and faster during that time.

I’m excited to be doing this new program and am eager to see what benefits I get from switching it up!

My Goals for May

I’m still on a high from my success in April, and I’m hoping it’ll stay that way so that I can have a great May! This month will be a lot different than any month in over a year, because my fully-vaccinated self is getting on a plane and flying to California to visit family. Adding travel back into my plans is a VERY welcome change, but it’ll also be an opportunity for me to see how I handle my newfound healthy lifestyle once I’m not home all day.

With that in mind, I tried to formulate goals for May that would help me be successful but still allow me to have some flexibility – I don’t want to slide back into old habits, but I don’t want to be super rigid either!

Stay under my allotted calories 70% of the time. I noted in my April goal recap that I stayed under my calorie count 63% of the days in April, so I want to increase that percentage for May. It works out to 22 days, which still gives me 9 days to go over. While I’m not making it an official part of my goal, I’m also going to play around with calorie cycling, lowering my allotted calories slightly so that on the days I’m sticking to that number that my intake of food will be a little bit reduced. I think this will help offset the days I go over.

Average 9,500 steps per day. This is slightly under my average steps for April, so it isn’t requiring me to increase my activity but to maintain my current level. May can bring some really nice weather to the Seattle area, but it can also bring some soggy rainy days that make a long walk unappealing.

Complete the Fit Happens May Beachbody Challenge. The coaches in my Beachbody group have been busily cooking up a fresh batch of challenges for May. The first part of the May challenge is to share a photo of one healthy meal per day. I love this because it will help me stay on-track with nutrition, and I decided that none of my Shakeology shakes will count for this so I have to share a breakfast or a dinner. The other challenge is a plank challenge! I’m really excited about this one because by the end of the month, the challenge has us holding a plank for three minutes, much longer than I’ve ever done before! Here’s a copy of the plank challenge in case anyone wants to join in on the fun:

Write a blog post once a week. I want to challenge myself to use my creative side more and start writing again, and more than just lists of my goals! I do have more going on in my life than just trying to lose weight and be healthier, and I’d like to share more of myself in May.

Recapping my April Goals

Hooray, FINALLY a month where this post isn’t super depressing! I crushed my April goals and I am so, so proud. I also lost 2.5 pounds, which isn’t a lot but I feel like it’s indicative of progress achieved with small and sustainable changes – and if I lose that much every month for the rest of the year, I’ll be down 22.5 pounds, which would be amazing.

Without further ado, here are my reflections on my April goal performance.

Stay under my allotted calories four days a week. I am so happy that I finally achieved a nutrition goal! Not only did I achieve this, but I actually stayed under my calorie count a couple of additional days in April, for a total of 19 days out of 30 or 63% of the month. Having three days a week that I could splurge really helped keep me on track the rest of the week. I think I would have seen better results if I hadn’t tended to go pretty far over my calorie count on the days I allowed myself to exceed my allotment, so I’m mulling over how to address that in my May goals.

Strength-train four days a week. I was back on my workout schedule in April and I easily achieved this, even with the hurdle of not feeling great after my second COVID vaccine last weekend (more on that experience later). Bill and I started a new round of LIIFT4 this week, so I have my workouts planned out for the next seven weeks. After that, there’s a new workout program I want to try, so lots of good stuff to look forward to as we move into summer!

Average 8,000 steps per day. I’m writing this on Friday afternoon so I don’t have my final step count for today, but as of right now my overall average steps for April was 9,655 per day. I’m sure the additional cardio contributed to my weight loss in April, and I’ve loved getting outside every day and taking long walks.

Complete the Fit Happens 30-Day Beachbody Challenge. My online Beachbody group had two challenges running in April – a daily workout/movement log with a photo, and a daily Shakeology log with a photo. I am beyond proud to say that I didn’t miss a single day (there were a couple of days when I wasn’t feeling well and just did some stretching workouts, but movement is movement!). But my favorite part of this goal was that it helped me be accountable to someone other than myself and it gave me a new motivation to make healthy habits – I didn’t want to look like a slacker!

Serve at least one dinner per week that has fish as the protein. This turned out to be a really fun goal, because I discovered that I enjoy preparing fish! Bill’s overwhelming favorite was my pan-seared Halibut, which has become a part of our weekly dinners.

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.