Tag Archives: scale

The Right Way

An absurd moment of relief hit me this summer as I sat in a small office in the ER as a nurse was taking my vitals, getting my medical history, and asking me questions. I was in pain with the mysterious malady that ruined my July, zeroed out my appetite, and put all my fitness aspirations on hold. But what really got my attention was the number on the hospital scale: 162.

“At least I’m still under my goal weight,” I remember thinking.

That is messed up thinking, folks.

It is several months after the ER visit, and I want to think my body’s on the mend. As I said before, my team of doctors thinks what happened was I tore something in my abdomen related to my gallbladder surgery, and it took about a month for the initial healing. It may take longer to completely heal, it turns out. To me, that meant no more attempted running, take it easy on the stairs, and don’t walk too far, too fast.

With these behavior caveats in mind, I’ve taken care of myself as best as I can with decent eating habits, taking care of myself when I’m sick, and walking the doggies around the hilly neighborhood (girl, my calves are going to be uh-mazing).

I got a new digital scale over the weekend. Its decimal places settle my need to know what fraction of a pound I lose by taking off my socks before stepping onto the arbiter of progress. It reads the same weight no matter what way I turn it on the hardwood floors of my new home, so I have faith in its accuracy. And with that accuracy comes a clean, reliable knowledge of the fact of my weight. There it is! There’s no doubt stemming from the vagaries of an older scale that has an adjustable wheel for calibration and imperfectly spins numbered black lines past a red line. There’s no squinting, then putting on my glasses, to read the tiny marks all the way at my feet. Like the hospital scale, this new sucker’s electrical. It’s digital, it’s clear, and to me, it’s like my achievements are being narrated by Morgan Freeman.

An image of actor Morgan Freeman from Evan Almighty with a number superimposed over his chest

The Morgan Freeman-Narrated Weight Scale. People would buy it. They would feel reassured about their weight. If the makers included a voiceover with eating and exercise guidelines, they could probably solve the majority of obesity problems in the Western world.

This morning, my digital scale told me as clear as a bell that my weight was 165. This is great news for me! And I’ll tell you why:

  • At 162 pounds in July, I was nauseated and not eating, dehydrated, and miserable. At 165 pounds this November morning, I am taking long walks with the dogs nearly every day, I ate 4 pieces of chicken for dinner last night, and physically, I feel pretty dang good (albeit a little lightheaded from a lingering ear infection).
  • Despite life being extremely tumultuous this year, I’ve kept within 8-10 pounds of my goal weight of 163.
  • I kept to my goal weight the right way. I haven’t starved myself. Not everything I’ve eaten or drank this week has been on my diet, but most of it has. Not every morning has found me working up a sweat or working up enough body heat to keep my nose from falling off, but most have.

I am really proud of myself for not only my accomplishment and the way I achieved it, but also for holding onto it through hard work and good habits. It gives me hope that I’ve got my weight problem licked.

Speaking of spending time outdoors, I picked up some more winter wear this week, and I’ve resolved to start wearing my ankle brace again, at least until I buy new sneakers.

An aging pair of sneakers with one shoe insert on the floor next to them

Sad shoes. They served me well for quite a long time, but I had to put new inserts into them a month or two ago, and even those are now wearing out.

I wore my ankle brace and knee brace once last week. That was an immediate relief for the soreness I was experiencing, and I didn’t feel the need to wear my ankle brace again until after my morning dog walk today. As long as I wear it as needed and get some better foot gear, that shouldn’t be a problem.

My post earlier this week discussed appropriate outdoor gear for cooler weather and the adjustment I had to make when I moved from Texas to Kentucky. Something I’ve picked up since then is my new favorite accessory (move over, Batman beanie): a fleece neck gaiter. I didn’t know what it was called and spent quite some time with image search, shopping search, and browsing outdoor gear websites to find out that it was different than a balaclava.

Woman wearing a black fleece neck gaiter in four poses

The many looks of a neck gaiter. Bottom right is my toddler niece’s favorite. Probably everyone else’s favorite, too. Because everyone I know is a jerk.

I found this one at Wal-Mart with a headband (which I gave to my sister because I have an assortment of awesome headgear and would never wear it) for around $7.00. I’ve already put it to good use and am in love. As you can see, you can wear it many ways, and it helps complete any look.

Full Basket, Hollow Victory…and Hand-sewn Hems

A mystery malady has taken me down for several days this week. I had ice cream last Friday night, then was sick as a dog all day Saturday. I had chicken alfredo pasta every night Sunday through Wednesday for dinner (thanks, huge crock pot, for all those servings!) and have been ill enough to go home from work early two days out of five. I’ve totally lost my appetite. It’s either a food thing I haven’t tracked down, a virus, or aliens. The only common food I can think of is carbs, but even that doesn’t explain everything, as the ingredients for the ice cream were vastly different from those in the chicken alfredo pasta. Whatever the cause, it has given me more than a little misery and nausea.

When you don’t feel like eating, you reach your weight goals more quickly. But this victory felt quite hollow, as it came at the expense of my health.

Two feet standing on a scale that reads 163 pounds.

Goal achieved, but it’s not very meaningful if I only got there because I’m sick.

I had a moment of, “Oh. Well, there it is. Um…where do I go from here?” But this isn’t a finish line. It’s just a number on a scale that could be inaccurate, a number deflated by illness and lack of appetite. While it’s an indicator that my long-term efforts to improve my health by losing body fat are paying off, this scale reading doesn’t tell me that I’m only here because the thought of putting anything else in my body that wasn’t ginger ale sounded like the worst idea ever at the time of photography.

I spent Saturday afternoon convalescing on the couch. I watched black-and-white movies, I got mobbed by the animals, and I managed to put almost-real hems on three of my new smaller pairs of jeans. I don’t have a sewing machine, so I did it by hand. I did a complete bastardization of the “original hem” method and measured 29 inch inseams, folded the hem back up the inside of the leg, pinned everything into place, and baste stitched in about 16 places around each pant leg. If I hold onto these jeans for more than a few months, I’ll take them to be professionally tailored, but this works just fine.

The hand-sewn hems of a pair of women's jeans.

Hemming at home with hand-sewn basting stitches – a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, according to 19th century homemakers.

(You had no idea you were going to see so much of my poorly painted toenails. For your trouble, and for the pain felt by the entire professions of pedicurists, I apologize.)

Side note: I felt as though I was imitating my maternal grandmother with my lazy afternoon of patching clothing, drinking a diet cola, watching movies from the 40s, and removing one of the dogs from a tangle of denim in order to adjust a seam. I would be honored to be considered as industrious and handy as she was.

So! While putting away my jeans post-hemming, I decided to go through my closet and drawers and take out some of the things that were too large for me. This turned into me trying on a lot of shirts that I’ve held onto since I weighed 203 pounds. I was surprised at how cute a few of them still looked 40 pounds later, but for the most part, I was swimming in cloth.

I plonked most of the too-big clothes into the “for charity” basket – a skirt never worn, shirts that never fit quite right, beloved former favorites – and put a few of the shirts back into my closet as plausible candidates for further wear. I sported one of those shirts on Monday. I was cute, sure, but the shirt was huge on me, and I was conscious of it all day. As a tiny, fashion-forward fourth grader, I tried to wear my mother’s yellow-and-white striped tunic to school as a dress; like my 9-year-old self, my Monday self was trying to wear an item of clothing that was clearly inappropriate for my size.

A drawing of a young girl wearing an oversized t-shirt as a dress

Fourth grade fashion disaster: wearing my mom’s shirt as a dress. Hem depicted longer than it probably was in real life. My only excuses are that a.) I was nine and b.) It was the eighties, come onnnnn.

So that shirt, as well as the others I’d set aside, are going in with the rest of the contents of this laundry basket to be entrusted to the next clothing donation center I can find (hoping that the clothes I donate actually do some good, though my hope dwindles upon reading reviews and coverage of the book Overdressed.)

A laundry basket full of clothing

Basket of cast-offs from my closet and chest of drawers. I was surprised I had this much clothing to begin with, much less enough clothing to discard.

I hope to be well enough soon to begin working out in earnest besides stretching and performing push-ups to continue strengthening my bum shoulder. Pilates is on my plate. I love it, but I think I need a new workout. I’ve memorized my old one, and I find the pace a little laggy. Time to do some research.

Stand By Your Plan (Unless You’re Doing It Wrong)

I’ve intentionally embarked on reduced calorie diets off and on since 2006. The main thing they had in common was this: I was not good at sticking to a reduced calorie diet, ever, without eventually wanting to give up and cheat, giving in to small temptations, and being discouraged at the slowness of my results.

In the distant past (2010), I was a vegetarian subsisting mainly on fake meat products, sauteéd vegetables and quinoa, vegetarian frozen lunches containing sauces and a lot of rice and pasta, eggs and cheese, and spaghetti by the mile. When I was dieting, it was difficult to get “enough” calories in a day unless I was eating a lot of cheese, or a lot of carbs – and sometimes, the way I saw best to round out my calories was allowing myself a brownie, cookies, ice cream, whatever sugary thing was on hand.

As long as I was below or at (or maybe, oops, a little bit over) my caloric limit for the day, I was doing ok. I missed my protein intake, I always had more carbs than I thought, and I believed fat was the devil. Oh, and I could have one cheat day a week. Sometimes, that turned into a cheat weekend. Well, I was going on vacation and not working out again. Maybe I wasn’t going to try so hard to eat well for…a month, two months, half a year, besides eating technically-meat-free food that was often sugar and refined carbs. Yeah. I was doing it wrong.

An MS Paint image of a hand holding a 100% vegetarian snack with terrible nutritional information.

Nacho Banana Crisps. Is that such a bad idea when you think about it? Yes? Ok, I’ll just show myself out.

In the even more distant past (2006), I started seriously looking into fitness. I worked out in my office building’s gym with my friends from work and read the women’s fitness magazines one of them brought along. One publication in particular had monthly fitness features and recommended food plans with a week’s worth of meals laid out on its glossy pages. When I picked up a weightlifting book a couple of years later, I found that it devoted a chapter to a number of high protein recipes. These were surely the keys to weight loss. But only, as it turns out, if you ate meat. I remember leafing through them, vainly hoping that at least one of the meals would be vegetarian. How nice would it be to be told exactly what to eat, to have a system that took all the thought out of it?

I’m not a great cook. Because I grew up not wanting to waste food, I’ll eat almost anything I make, but I certainly don’t enjoy cooking the way some people do (baking is another story). Give me a recipe I can nuke in the microwave, or a magic loaf of bread that fulfills all my daily nutritional requirements and tastes like banana nut bread.  But please, I thought, no more recipes including salmon. No grilled chicken. No more soaking beans overnight to make an approximation of a burger that will be filled with oats and disappointment. The feeling of hopes dashed faded quickly to resigned expectation and acceptance. I guess I’ll just eat steamed vegetables…forever? And quinoa, I guess.

A complex, satisfying, easy-to-make vegetarian meal’s appearance on those pages was a rare enough event that if it happened, I don’t remember, which also speaks to how good the recipe might have been. Maybe it was an olive, mint, and sardine salad dressed in a peanut butter reduction! Mmm.

And now that we’re all no longer hungry, let’s talk more about my easier, more recent, and more balanced food choices.

It’s been much simpler to plan meals with my boyfriend since I started eating meat, starting with my post-gallbladder recovery, and we adapted dinner quickly to the lower carb, paleo-ish diet my doctor put me on several months ago. This time, I’m 3 months into my new diet with little sign of slowing down. For the most part…

A text message exchange about a cake that has been eaten.

Teamwork – my boyfriend supports me in my new way of eating, even going so far as to sacrifice his body and heroically eat all the cake in the name of keeping me honest.

I’m so lucky that I love all the food that I’ve been advised to eat right now, and that they’re all satisfying. That makes all the difference. My lunches vary from week to week, but as I scroll through photos of my food, I see recurring themes: raw vegetables, fresh and frozen berries, reasonable portions of meat, eggs, small amounts of cheese, select nuts, and very few breads, legumes, and grains. I’m not always scanning the horizon for the next miracle, and I don’t have to think that hard about what my choices will be in the grocery store with such simple ingredients.

I don’t miss bread, sweets, corn, or potatoes all that much, although occasionally, I do splurge. And I mean very occasionally. I’m making such great progress that I usually have to talk myself into throwing myself a curveball. That seems like humble bragging or a successful dieter problem on the order of first world problems. But I just don’t want to fall into bad habits again, and frankly, the things I’m missing out on don’t seem as vital to my life as they once did.

I had one piece of the cake that was mentioned in the above conversation. The piece was great, but I was definitely done after one, and it’s likely I would have been satisfied with just the icing. Then, last Friday, I made myself take a cheat meal at McDonald’s, where I got an Angus burger with an order of fries. That was a bad idea. Bad, bad, bad idea. The burger was just ok, the fries were not fresh and not very good, and eating them gave me gastric problems all weekend.

And yet, as not-great as those fries were, I automatically ate every last one of them down to the bottom of the carton, then rummaged in the bag for the end pieces and any strays. So much for moderation and portion control. Much better idea: sticking to what I know is delicious, good for my health, and satisfying to my palate and satiation.

A counter shows raw veggies, meat, and frozen berries. A beagle looks on.

“Your dinner looks great. But listen to this: it would look even better in my food dish.” – Beagles, nature’s sweetest con artists.

Dinner one evening consisting of mixed berries (in the bowl), mixed raw veggies on the plate, and pork loin stewed in carrots, onions, pineapple, and cranberry sauce. The dog would love to eat my dinner, if I let him. The onions could actually hurt him, but the other veggies are ok, and I usually sneak him at least one carrot or pea pod.

A car seat holding a small purse and two food containers of raw vegetables, strawberries, and deli meat.

I multitasked on the way to the bank one afternoon by eating my lunch in the car. Luckily, it’s mostly finger food. The veggies serve as soft cheese vehicles.

My usual lunch of deli meat, carrots, peas, soft cheese wedge, and strawberries. I’ve had it so often over the last three months, and I’m still not tired of it.

Sticking to my guns has paid off in spades. I weighed in this morning at 168 pounds. That puts me 5 pounds away from the target weight my doctor gave to me. Using the crudest of BMI calculators, I’m now at 29.8%, so I’m limboing under obese into just overweight. That’s pretty great. And allow me to display stats from September 2011 through this morning that show you the amount of weight I’ve lost as well as tape measure data.

A spreadsheet showing body measurements in Imperial units as taken with a tape measure.

This spreadsheet snippet shows my progress since mid-September 2011, when I first began tracking my measurements. The total at the lower right is inches I’ve lost.

This shows the change in my body over the last 8 months, and a lot of this progress has been made since February. I was barely treading water until I was given a plan that worked and that I was able to stick to so easily. It’s no miracle, and based on my dietary choices of mostly vegetables, fewer carbs, and fewer calories, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, either. The most surprising thing of all is the satisfaction I’ve found in my new habits. That satiety is stronger than all the self-discipline and willpower I’ve ever been able to muster.

A Fistful of Carrots: Back from MIA with a New Eating Plan

Life blew up in my face earlier this year, shortly after my recommitment to Reddit’s 90 Days Goal community, with an embarrassment of personal disasters large and small. I stopped working out, and I stopped tracking my diet.

Did you know that if you stop doing these things, you put weight back on, if you’re me? Yes! I have found the secret to gaining weight! Call today for your free brochure, 1-800-GIV-NO-DAMNS.

Faux telephone chat hotline commercial from the television show "30 Rock."

"CALL NOW FOR DIET TIPS FROM DALLAS' MOST DO-NOTHING LADIES"

I didn’t gain a ton of weight back, but I lost some of my muscle tone. So while the scale stayed at the same spot, I started having a little more trouble fitting into the smaller pants I’d been so happy to get back into a couple of months back.

Working out has been a big ol’ failure. On top of feeling sapped of energy by emotional crap, I’ve also let myself be sucked into the black hole that is Star Wars: The Old Republic. While it’s fun, the shine is off the apple, and I’m beginning to remember I did things other than fly a Corellian freighter across the galaxy with a Wookie and a companion whom I’ve taken to calling Lady Batman because I don’t know what the hell she is. But I digress.

I went to my doctor several weeks ago to get my shoulder reevaluated. He concluded that my range of motion and use have both been restored to close to normal, and that I should continue with stretches and physical therapy workouts as I see fit until I don’t think I need them anymore. I have scaled my stretching and PT workouts way back (“almost none” counts as way back), but I do still need them from time to time, as my shoulder still gets sore.

It completely slipped my mind to ask him about my snoring until my boyfriend mentioned it to me later in the week. I called my doctor back and got an appointment almost right away. At that appointment, my doctor gave me two options: participate in an expensive sleep study to find out whether I had sleep apnea (based on the screening tool, it is not likely), or lose weight. Ohhhh, lose weight! I haven’t been trying to do that for the past ~20 years, so that sounded a lot easier.

He described to me a diet that sounds a lot like the Paleolithic diet, although he danced all around the name in describing it. No grains, not even corn; avoid starchy root vegetables; lots of raw vegetables and fruit, sparing meat in portions the size of my fist. He also said no diet soda, few carbs, and as few sugars as I could get away with.

After listing off everything that I’d eaten or drank over the course of the last week as forbidden, with the possible exception of coffee and water, he wished me luck and set me up with a sleep study just in case I wanted to go that route. I said I’d give the diet the old college try. I’m sure that saying refers to someone else’s college try, because mine was not much worth emulating. I wanted this to succeed. Especially since I found out that I’m an inch shorter than I was during high school, and my BMI was therefore higher. I was instructed to drop from 189 to 163.

The first week was a resounding success. I was full, eating less food without being hungry, and had already shed several pounds. The second week’s progress is still in evaluation mode, as it overlapped with vacation to the land of fried foods and family, and the damage has yet to be tabulated. However, many family members commented on how much weight I’ve lost. It’s getting close to the official 20 pound mark since last March.

I felt really happy when my smaller pants began to fit comfortably again, leading me to dream of the day, hopefully soon, that I could go clothes shopping for smaller sized jeans. I just can’t wait for the inevitable frustration of, first of all, trying to find my size in petites, and trying to find it in the clearance section, the short, cheap wench that I am. What do you mean, I could just buy a belt? You shut up over there.

Will I start working out again? Sure, I always do. I can’t promise anything on a specific timeline, but I am never happy staying inactive for long. Texas gave winter a miss this year, and the weather is relentlessly beautiful. Daylight savings time happens this weekend, and there will be an hour or more of daylight after work each evening. How long will I be able to resist going outside in that?

A cloudy, multicolored sunset over a suburban neighborhood.

I mean, really. This cannot be resisted for long.

RIP, Digital Scale

My digital scale is probably broken forever. At least it didn’t break while I was on it.

I bought it in 2005 or 2006, so it’s had a long life and has survived a couple of moves. Sadly, it did not survive this new year’s weekend kitten illness.

One of my cats was sick and had to be cooped up in the bathroom for several days. My SO and I had to clean the bathroom out completely of our things, and in moving the scale, it got set on top of a non-digital scale that a former roommate had left behind when he moved years ago.

Shortly after the scales were moved, I decided to weigh myself with the digital model (the standard model was, at the time, a glorified paperweight), which I hadn’t done regularly since the end of the last 90 Days Goal round. I was quite surprised when the scale showed my weight in stone and pounds instead of calculating pounds to tenths.

The internet, to my mild surprise, was ABSOLUTELY NO HELP in trying to figure out how to solve the problem. I tried pressing buttons and messing with the batteries in the back, and nothing worked. I was a little frustrated.

My boyfriend turned out to be the genius who took a careful look at the bottom of the scale and figured out the problem: on the NewLine body fat bathroom scale, model SAF5339, on the bottom near the battery, there is a switch that allows you to change the reading from kilograms to pounds to stone and pounds. The switch was flipped at some point when the digital scale was set on top of the other scale.

He found out something else was wrong, too, though: the scale then displayed an error message when stepped upon. No amount of switch flipping, battery removal and replacing, etc. was able to change that. What good is a scale that can’t calculate weight at all?

I suppose it’s for the best – not being able to see the number every day might keep me from focusing on and obsessing over the few pounds that I keep losing and putting back on. But at the same time, I love details and statistics and tracking my progress. Don’t take this from me! And I still have to weigh in for the 90 Days Goal challenge next week. Ugh! Oh, well. I suppose that measurement can be in whole pounds. I can always buy a new, more precise scale if I want to get nitpicky about it. And if I do, I will hang onto its instruction manual in case it starts giving me my weight in something other than my preferred measurement.