Monday, March 30, 2009

Lose It! Adjustments

So now I’ve used the Lose It! Iphone application for a week. How did I do? Well, there are a couple adjustments I need to make, in terms of exercise and the calories in individual meals.


The program adds exercise as extra calories to consume. For example, my calorie intake was calculated to be 1383 calories per day (based on my goal and how fast I want to achieve it), but if I burn 400 calories in exercise, it will increase my calorie budget to 1783. I don’t want to eat that many calories because that’s only ~300 calories less than I was eating before! It’ll take me 11 days to lose one pound! My solution is to add exercise at the end of the day, after I’ve finished totaling calories.

Calorie budgets per meal:

The program starts with your total calorie budget for the day and deducts the calories you consume. So if you aren’t careful, you might have only 50 calories left by the time dinner rolls around! Although it does total your calories per meal, it doesn’t give any calorie budgets per meal, only per day. I wish it would budget each meal, in addition to each day. I also wish I could compare calories per meal and exercise across the days. I can only compare total calories across the days.

So, at the end of the week, I was almost 800 calories over budget. L The first day and the last couple days I was on budget, but mid-week, I was about 200 calories over budget each day. Next week, I’ll, first, pay more attention to my calories per meal and, second, add in the exercise at the end of each day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lose It!

I decided to try an iphone calorie counter application. Lose It! Is free and seems to be popular. My first impression is that it’s pretty good, but sometimes it seems like a lot of looking up and clicking through to the next page. I don’t like that it gives me a red mark if I go one calorie over my designated limit, but that might also prevent some from doing so. Here are the four main features:

My Day:
You can track Today or This Week, which gives bar graphs of your calorie intake with a line at your calorie budget. Go over budget and the bar turns red. It also tells you how many calories over or under budget you are for the week. The Today tab gives the same info for today plus exercise calories burned. From here, you can add food or exercise.

Log: This is where you list your food and exercise by clicking the + button. You can also edit and cycle through the days. Every time you want to add a food, you first have to choose which meal. Then you can search foods, in general, or by My Foods (those you’ve used before), Previous Meals, Recipes, Brand Name Foods, or Create New Food. So you (1) click +, then (2) which meal, then (3) where you want to search for the food, then (4) the specific food, then (5) the specific quantity, then (6) Add. 6 steps to add one food! And you have to do that for each food you eat for each meal! For instance, you can’t choose Lunch and add all your foods; you have to choose Lunch before each food.

What I’ve learned with Recipes is to make my own common combinations, such as oatmeal cooked with milk, with honey and dried cranberries on top. Lose It! will total the calories of each ingredient portion I enter; then I just add Fong Oatmeal to my Breakfast, instead of adding each ingredient every time I eat oatmeal. I did the same with my coffee with sugar and ½ & ½. At the same time, some foods have a different number of calories than the specific brand I eat, so I just adjust the quantity accordingly; I might eat 1 1/8 cups to total the number of calories on my food package.

Goals: You set them at the beginning, giving your current & goal weights, and the number of pounds you want to lose per week. Lose It! charts your daily weight, if you enter it. You can also modify your profile and goals.

More . . .: The topics are Custom Foods, Custom Exercises, Recipes, Nutrient Preferences, FAQs, and About Lose It! I used Custom Foods (same as Create New Food) for a recipe in which I knew the number of calories. Rather than inputting each ingredient as a Food or even as a Recipe, I just inputted the recipe name and calorie count. Much easier!

It’s only been 3 days, so we’ll see how it goes in the long run. It’s still a hassle to keep a food journal, but hopefully the results will be worth it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hi-Tech Running Part 2: Accessories

Continuing my blog about hi-tech running, this time I’ll focus on the accessories, from top to bottom.

Hat – I first wore a hat because I was always running into the sun, which always found its way between my sunglasses and eyebrows. I discovered it also covers bed-head quite nicely! However, a hat became a regular item when I found one that fit me well, was made of a cooling hi-tech fabric, and was machine washable! Now, that’s a hat worth wearing!

Sunglasses – Living in California, we always have our sunglasses. But running on the beach, at the edge of the water, I learned the important, glare-reducing qualities of polarized lenses. Now, my sunglasses always have to be polarized! My newest pair came with interchangeable “low-light” lenses. They are for overcast days, when you still find yourself knitting your brows together. Low-light lenses brighten up a gray day, allowing me to relax my brows and see everything better.

Cell phone & Music -- I remember when Walkmans came out; they were revolutionary! Take your music anywhere?! Wow! I started carrying my cell phone while running when I was pregnant, in case of an emergency. Now, most cell phones play music, so we kill two hi-tech accessory birds with one stone. In addition, I have those special rubber ear buds that don’t pop out of my ears. They have a dual cord, which I put under my shirt, that is longer on the right side because we always carry it on the left side, not in the middle. What engineering genius thought of that?! The dual cord can be shortened to plug into my arm-strap, so there’s not a lot of extra cord bouncing around, or lengthened to wear the phone farther away than my upper arm. Talk about hi-tech! Even my arm-strap is a fancy with 3-parts: (1) protective phone cover, through which I can still use all my phone’s features, (2) arm strap with key pouch, and (3) belt clip, which I never use. I’m sure anyone under the age of 30 thinks all this is perfectly normal, but none of it existed 10 years ago! Lastly, I don’t just listen to music; I listen to Pandora, which is a customized, internet radio station! (

Watch -- I wear a Garmin Forerunner watch ( I bought it before you could log your runs on your Iphone with apps like RunKeeper or iMapMyRun. Like those apps, it tracks your speed, pace, time, distance (using GPS), etc. Mine also has a heart rate monitor with a chest strap, which I’d never wanted to use, but now I realize it’s easier for women than for men because I just tuck it under my bra strap. Men aren’t used to wearing straps around their chests, so it’s uncomfortable for them. It also tracks calories; I’m not sure if the online ones do that. I also like that I can sync it to my computer and track my averages: time, pace, heart rate, etc. so I can see my overall performance and compare that to previous runs.

Chip timing – Is great for races! A little chip attached to your shoe laces marks your time as you cross the electronic finish line. No more estimating most racers’ time. It’s easy, exact and reusable, and hi-tech.

It’s not so simple to leave the house for a run these days. There are so many details to remember to bring! And if I’m gonna bring the cell phone for safety, I might as well bring my arm strap, instead of carrying my phone in my sweaty hand. And then I might as well bring my ear buds and listen to music from my phone, etc., etc., etc. Have a great, hi-tech, run!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hi-Tech Running Part 1: The Basics

While running along the beach, I was thinking about how hi-tech running has become. It’s become so hi-tech, in fact, that I’m dividing it into two parts: the basics and accessories. When I started running 30 years ago (ooh, makes me sound old!), I threw on a t-shirt, shorts & tennis shoes and left the house. Not so any longer. Even the basic clothing has gone hi-tech, for the better.

Shoes are the most important thing you wear. Never pay for bad quality running shoes because you already own bad running shoes. Most new runners quit within two months due to injury, often caused by running in bad shoes. It’s worth investing in good quality shoes, fitted by a professional, designed for the type of running you are doing and your running gait. Use them for running and nothing else.

Bras are the second most important thing you wear. 2 words: no bounce! Again, get yourself fitted at a female fitness store, such as See Jane Run or Title Nine, for high-impact running. The cute little “sports bras” are better looking than supportive. They’re great for yoga but not designed for running. Running is among the highest impact you’ll sustain over time. I used to not worry about running bras because I was small-chested. But small, saggy boobies look sad, too, so give your girls support while running. When you try on a running bra, jump up and down in the fitting room and look for no bounce.

Shirts: High-tech fabrics are designed to wick moisture away from your skin to the outer layers where it will evaporate. Result: you stay cooler and dryer. Some say high-tech fabrics are hotter to wear, but if you are going to work up a sweat anyway, the high-tech shirt will keep you more comfortable. Some say they quickly become stinky, but the new ones have antimicrobial features to prevent odor. At the gym where I work there are fans to help cool people off; however, some say the fans make them too chilled. Those people are always wearing cotton: you work out and sweat, your cotton shirt gets wet with sweat, the fan (or any post-workout breeze) cools the wetness (without drying it), and you get chilled. That’s why they say “cotton kills.” With high-tech fabrics, your clothes stay drier, so you stay comfortable. Save the cotton t-shirts for yard work or housework, not for work outs.

Shorts/pants: Also invest in high-tech fabrics. Shorts styles haven’t changed a lot, though some have built in panties & key pockets nowadays. Same story as t-shirts, except visibly sweaty cotton bottoms are even less attractive than visibly sweaty tops.

Socks: This great running store called Berkeley Sports would always give me a pair of running socks when I bought shoes there, so I decided to replace my socks whenever I buy shoes. It’s always about time that I need them anyway.

Conclusion: The first time I really “invested” in high-tech clothes was for outdoor, early morning workouts in winter (in CA). I gulped hard at spending $350 for 5 items of clothing, but one day my class was rained on unexpectedly. While everyone in their layers of cotton sweats was very wet and cold, I felt dry, warm and comfortable in my single layer of high-tech pants and shirt! That’s when I realized the $350 was the best clothing investment I’d ever made! It’s hard to shell out big bucks for clothes you’re just going to sweat in. However, why would I fork over that much for a nice dress I’d wear to once, but hesitate over paying that much for a few clothes I’ll wear every time they are clean?!

Friday, March 13, 2009

I’m Stuffed!

Lately, I’ve been eating too much at dinnertime, to the point where I feel stuffed! Tonight I can’t sleep, and I think it’s because my stomach is too busy digesting all my dinner! Not only am I eating too much, but it seems like it’s been happening daily! Every night my stomach’s bulging out, and I feel uncomfortable. What’s up with that? Why am I eating so much? Is it related to exercising more? Is it because we’re eating more home-cooked meals? Is it because I’m not eating enough throughout the day, so I overdo it at night?

I don’t think I’m eating too much at the time, but then I feel too full. I’m not paying attention to how much I eat because I’m always focused on getting my daughters to eat. I do focus on how much food I put on their plates (1 bite of each food, for each year in age), but not on mine. I think I’ve also been having seconds if it’s really good.

This is where it’s related to cooking more often at home. For the past several weeks, I’ve been making sure to make my menus and grocery lists so that we eat better at home and I cook several times a week. So we’ve been eating all sorts of delicious dinners lately, thanks to the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Perhaps that’s been making me eat more, gourmand!

Because I’ve been exercising more consistently the past few weeks, I’m disappointed that I haven’t slimmed down as a result. Perhaps I’m just eating more to compensate for the additional calories burned. I feel stronger, but the belly-fat is still there.

That’s related to the possibility that I’m not eating enough throughout the day, so I over-eat at dinnertime. This is a problem lots of dieters have: they diet well in the morning and early afternoon, but are starving by mid-afternoon and give in to temptation. It’s true that I’ve been hungry in the late afternoon and sometimes snack while cooking dinner. I think that’s a definite problem too: if I snack on cheese and crackers while cooking, how many calories have I consumed before I even start to eat dinner?

So in conclusion, I need to pay attention once the late afternoon rolls around. Pre-dinner snacks need to be what I give my girls: vegetables. It’s great: they are starving and will eat anything! I’ve been trying to drink more water, too, and should do so while cooking. For dinner, I need to serve myself portions; fortunately, my main cookbook gives portion sizes and calories. Otherwise, diet and health-conscious sources always recommend ½ plate veggies, ¼ protein, and ¼ starches.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Consequences of Junk Food

My 4 ½ yr old daughter crawled into my bed at 2 a.m. and, shortly thereafter, threw up. Fortunately, she missed me and my husband, but she made quite a mess of herself and the bed. As we cleaned everything up, I thought, “It was that half a hot dog she ate just before bed that made her sick.” Then I thought more about what she ate yesterday. Compared to last week, which was a very healthy week for us, yesterday was extremely unhealthy. We rarely eat that badly, especially in one day!

I was surprised she wanted half a hot dog just before bedtime, but she saw Daddy eating one and wanted one, too. Before that, we’d just come home from Tucker’s ice cream, which we went to because the kids had eaten a good dinner. Hmm, “good” meaning they ate a lot, which is rare. We’d met some friends for dinner at Tomatina, where Maya ate 2 pieces of cheese pizza. She usually eats only 2 bites of pizza! Earlier in the afternoon, we’d made chocolate chip cookies that we made into little ice cream sandwiches. For lunch, we had the rare opportunity to go out, so we went to the Little House CafĂ©, where she ate half a grilled cheese sandwich and some grape soda. Since she ate “well,” we shared a strawberry cream puff for dessert. Wow! 3 desserts in one day?!

Looking back, no wonder she got sick! The consequence of eating junk food all day is that she got sick; her body rejected it, quite literally. A complete purging of her system and lots of rest helped her feel better.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Fresh Food Challenge

So I kept track of the types of foods I ate last week. How much was prepared? How much was fresh or homemade? Keeping track really made me focus on what exactly I mean by “packaged, processed, prepared” foods. First of all, some foods are minimally processed (canned vegetables) vs. highly processed (i.e., boxed dinners). The former are about as good as fresh, but the latter are steeped in preservatives and chemicals. I finally decided that what I mean is foods you buy prepared vs. you could buy the ingredients and make it easily. I found myself writing lots of notes on my food journal, suggestions, excuses, clarifications, etc.

So the good, fresh foods I ate were:
Coffee with sugar and ½ & ½
Sweet potatoes
Whole grain bread
Waffles (homemade)
Cottage cheese
Tuna with mayo
Whole grain crackers
Whipped cream
Frozen peas
Chicken broth
Whole wheat bagel
Peanut butter – natural
Smoked gouda cheese
Cranberry juice
Dried berries
Curry rice with peas and raisins (homemade)
Egg sandwich (homemade: bread, egg, cheese, turkey, ketchup)
Pancakes (from scratch)
Dried cranberries
Bbq beef with bbq sauce (homemade)

And the prepared foods I ate were:
Ham lunch meat
Microwave popcorn
Reese’s peanut butter cup
Diet Coke
Pancakes (whole wheat mix)
Tortilla chips
Guacamole (store bought)
Yogurt (with food starch, pectin, lots of sugar and too many other ingredients)
Mini candies
Cake (boxed mix)
Ice cream
Sushi – CA roll (store bought)
Fiesta Salad (store bought)
Chicken wrap sandwich (store bought)
Wheat pizza dough
Bottled spaghetti sauce
Salad dressing
Chocolate-dipped goodies (pretzel, graham cracker, English Toffee, Oreo)
Smoothie (to go)
Iced mocha with whipped cream
Girl Scout Cookies

(I listed each food once, although I might have eaten it multiple times in the week.)

Overall, I have to admit, I had a stellar week! I ate a lot fewer prepared foods than I’d expected. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with planning out dinners in advance and writing a grocery list.

Some of the little notes I wrote were: for sodas, drink one can per day maximum. For grain products (bread, cereal, tortillas, pasta, bagels, etc.), buy whole grains (1st ingredient). Instead of mayonnaise, use mustard or hummus when possible. Lunch meats, like ham or turkey, have a lot of nitrates, which are bad for you. I wrote yogurt in both lists because I had two different kinds. Yogurt can have a LOT of sugar, fillers and preservatives in it. Check labels and find the brand with less of all that and very few ingredients, like it used to be. Yes, I eat a little chocolate almost every day.

So am I going to try to eat fewer prepared foods than I did last week? No. Considering the total quantity of food I ate last week, only 15-20% was prepared foods. Most of it was homemade. A slow cooker helps. Cooking too many homemade waffles on the weekend helps us eat leftover, toasted, homemade waffles during the week. Planning to cook the evenings I have time to and planning on leftovers the evenings I don’t helps. Stocking up on fresh foods every week helps. Lots of little things help, just like in the rest of life. It’s never one big thing; it’s always the accumulation of little things that make the difference.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March Goal: No Prepared Foods

The other day I said something to my husband that I’ve believed for a long time: If we just cut out the junk food and packaged, processed, prepared foods, we’d all be healthier and lose weight. So I decided to make that my goal for March. I don’t think I eat many prepared foods, but we shall see as the month goes on . . .

I’ve already realized that I’ll have to change my rules as I go along, For instance, I need to better define my terms because so many things we buy come in “packages” or are at least partially “processed.” What about bread? It’s unrealistic to expect anyone to always make their own bread from scratch. So I’ll need to modify as I go along. I guess what I mean is “prepared” foods, and I know it would be extremely difficult to cut them out of our lives completely. So part of my question is specifically how much to cut them out? I’m going to take a rough guess at the rule of 80/20: if you eat fresh, homemade foods 80% of the time, it probably doesn’t matter what you eat the other 20% of the time.

As the trainer Jillian on the Biggest Loser says, “If it didn’t come from the ground, or didn’t have a mother, don’t eat it.” Eat real foods, like the words for foods that you learn when learning a foreign language. You don’t learn how to say “lunchables” in French, for example. More importantly, if you don’t really know what’s in it, don’t eat it.

I’ll need to focus on the “real” foods I’m eating, with mention of my discrepancies. In the end, that means a food journal! Ugh! I hate keeping a food journal. But it would more appropriately show the proportions of real vs. prepared foods I consume this month.

I hope to have a specific, realistic set of guidelines by the end of the month.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kicking Myself in the Boot!

After my fantastic, cardio & toning workout Wednesday, I woke up in the middle of the night almost unable to move due to an incredibly sore lower back! It didn’t help that I was lying on my stomach, causing my back to arch a little. I slowly managed to roll to my side and curl up knees, relieving the lower back pressure. I woke up realizing I’d really worked out my lower back, shoulder blades, love handles, & shoulders (even though my shoulders are so broad that I don’t work them directly). Yes, that’s my polite, Personal Trainer way of saying: I was SORE!

Is soreness good or bad? It depends on the severity of it. Mine was a good sore: letting me know I’d gotten a good workout the previous day. A bad sore would be so severe that I really couldn’t move or soreness that severely limited my ability to do daily tasks.

It’s officially called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Here are a couple web articles about the topic:
Basically, it’s caused by over-exertion coming from doing something new to the muscle. So newbies to exercise will feel sore after the first few workouts. In my case, it was the increased intensity of the exercise that caused the soreness. Changing exercises can cause it too: if you’re a runner and you try biking, you’ll feel sore because you are using your leg muscles in a different way. To build muscle, you overuse it, causing micro-tears in the muscle fibers, which cause soreness while they repair and rebuild themselves stronger. While repairing, the fibers build stronger bonds and more of them, i.e., bigger muscles. That’s why they always recommend waiting 48 hr between strength workouts of the same muscles groups: to give them enough time to recover.

My advice for sore muscles is to do light cardio, like a walk, to warm up the muscles, followed by lots of slow stretching. If it’s bad, I’ll take Advil. Personally, I went running to relieve the pain.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Boot Camping Myself

I haven’t been working out enough this month; it always seems to be a struggle to get it done. So I decided I needed to create a schedule to work out. I opened my Google Calendar ( and found that I already had scheduled regular workouts. Oops, I guess that didn’t work! So I rescheduled them for times that might work for me more realistically. Then, I realized I needed to boot camp myself! I needed to schedule it and commit to it in order to see results!

I’d already skipped Monday and taught Aqua Aerobics Tuesday, so I needed to schedule and commit to a big workout on Wednesday, both cardio and toning. I was going to be at the gym with a Personal Training client already, so I decided to stay, workout afterwards & shower, which I rarely do at the gym.

I spent 30 min. on the AMT (Adaptive Motion Trainer), reaching my goal of 300+ calories and 3+miles. Then I did 30 min. of toning exercises and stretching. I felt great afterwards! When don’t we feel great after a good workout?

The shower was actually a big deal because I often end up busy right after a workout, unable to shower until hours later. Fortunately for those I come in contact with, this refers mostly to Aqua Aerobics, so I smell like chlorine for hours, not sweat.

A workout, a shower, what more could I want? . . Food! I had no snacks with me, bummer! I was ready to raid my kids’ leftover lunches. I used to always keep an energy bar with me for times like this, but since the peanut butter recall, and Costco calling me (yes, really) telling me not to eat the Zone Perfect bars I’d bought there (there’s something to say for them tracking my purchases), we haven’t had any energy bars in the house. Ah, the pleasure of a great workout: eating afterwards!