Monday, March 28, 2016

Occasionally... Fat (Adventures in Dieting)

"I feel that you need to know... Your good friend, Miranda Hobbes, has just taken a piece of cake out of the garbage and eaten it. You will probably need this information when you check me into the Betty Crocker Clinic" 
-- Miranda, Sex and the City

For the record, I have a love-hate affair with food. I love it, but I kind of hate how much I love it. When we were growing up, all of my social interactions centered on food. My parents didn't have much when I was growing up so anytime they had a little extra, we were "treated" with food. Whether it was Friday night (payday) pizza, or a Hershey bar surprise from my dad... we celebrated everything with food! I distinctly remember the day that my mother had my brother... because that was the same day that my sister and I were allowed to have our own happy meals (we usually shared). Seriously? The birth of one of my favorite people is memorable because of... a happy meal! (I even remember the "toy" - a toothbrush, of all things. Ha!)

Anyway, it should come as no surprise to anyone that my love-hate affair with food has led to a roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain. I was fairly average most of my childhood until my senior year, when I decided to try the Freshman 15 out a little early. Strangely, I lost 30 pounds my first semester in college (mostly due to a combination of the absence of my mother's delicious New Mexican cooking and good ol' college poverty). When I took a nutrition class the next semester, a slight obsession with food began.

Between my the fall of my first year of college and the fall of my second, I lost just over forty pounds. I was easily the smallest I had ever been... and quite enjoyed it too! I was also very active - I ran twice a day, and went to the gym at least an hour every other day. Unfortunately, I didn't learn what I should have from that nutrition class: I learned that dieting is calories in vs calories out, and that to lose a pound you had to consume 1,500 calories less. What I didn't learn or comprehend, however, was that these were net calories. I restricted my diet again and again until I was down to roughly 900 calories a day - a feat that I was stupidly proud of, despite my workout routine and full time job. I should have known that working out more means that I should eat more, but I was careless (and obsessive). It took fainting on a treadmill to give me a wakeup call, but I still didn't learn. 

Since that fateful fall on the treadmill, I haven't quite figured out the whole diet thing. I had several ups and downs throughout my twenties, and went into a full-fledged free fall after 28. My weight ballooned after having to do steroid therapy for my pneumonia, and I never quite seemed to get rid of it. Add two more years of steroid therapy after that, and you have where I was about a year ago - fluffy, tired, and constantly sick.

For the last year and a half, I've been on a much better trend. I workout more often, and I definitely trend toward more healthy choices overall. Well, I was trending that way... In November, I really started ramping up my runs in preparation for my half marathon. As any runner will tell you, running is a terrible way to lose weight. You're hungry... ALL - THE - TIME! The weight on the scale didn't move much, however, and I was ok with that. I kept telling myself that as long as I wasn't gaining weight that it would be ok, and I could get back on track once I started tapering.

Well, we're now at the end of March, and guess what? I'm sooooo off track. I haven't ran much, I'm not working out as much, but I'm still eating like I did during the height of my half marathon training! And my sweet tooth has gone insane! Saturday was a bit of a wakeup call. We went out for a pancakes after my 5k race, then I had a strawberry and kale grilled chicken salad for lunch, we treated ourselves to an afternoon cupcake, and I had a giant burrito for dinner. Oh, and did I mention that I at about 3 cups of popcorn? By 9pm, I felt bloated and exhausted. Why was I eating so much? And how can I make it stop?

My friend told me today that his diet was horrible this weekend. Friends - my Saturday glutton-fest made his cheeseburger and fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner look nearly healthy by comparison! I know that this is wrong, so I'm going to actively work to stop it. Despite my younger mistakes, I have done a TON of research on healthy diet and nutrition since then. I know what I should and shouldn't eat, and I know that I can control it. I went and bought much healthier groceries tonight after work, and I'm going to endeavor to stick to what I purchased this week (except for lunch... I have too many plans to take my lunch to work, but I can pick healthier options!). Wish me luck!

In the meantime, I'm going to try to stick to a modified diet and slowly go back to healthier eating. I know I can't go to an all-or-nothing strategy, so I'm just sticking to small changes this week. Let's hope this works. 

Onward and upward!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures In Fitness: Vol. 1

Today I decided that I would be adventurous and try a new fitness center.  There are few things that give me as much pleasure as new fitness centers.  It's the first thing I look for when I check into a hotel and I love visiting other people's gyms.  Anyway, this one was located just one town over so I decided to stop on in and see what all they hype was about.  Well, it was great.  The equipment was up-to-date and maintained, and they had all of that extra stuff that I would order for my home gym if I wasn't too lazy to exercise at home.  I spent some quality time with the treadmill, the weights, the medicine balls.  I was sufficiently worked out when I decided that I would move on to shower time before my stagecoach turned back into a pumpkin.

A little background:  I worked a job for about two years and I maintained a locker there throughout my employment.  I opened it in the morning, at break time, lunchtime, and after work probably 5-6 times daily for about two years.  A couple of months ago I found my old lock and, hooray, the old combo still worked!  I've been using it at the gym once in a while.  

I was stinky, sweaty, and ready for my shower, but WTF???  Why won't my locker open?!?!  Was it 5, 7, 9? No, 9, 5, 7?  Sh#$!!!  It wasn't these particular numbers, but you get the point.  I was starting to get frustrated and embarrassed.  "OMG, are these people looking at me?"  I bet they're wondering why I'm taking so long.  I bet they're wondering why this random black girl is trying so hard to get into this locker that she clearly doesn't have the combination to.  "I know, I'll call home!  Wait, my phone is in the car and car keys are in this damn locker along with my ID to prove that I'm not some shady locker burglar.  FACK!!!"

Still unwilling to admit defeat, I asked a stranger for paper and pencil so that I could write down all of the possible combinations of numbers that I believed could be part of my locker combination.  The seniors were done with swim aerobics and they were trying to help.  Finally, I just went to the front desk and said, "I need help, I can't get into my locker (cause I'm a dummy)."

The front desk people were totes casual about it, so it must happen more often than I thought.  They brought out the jaws of life for lockers and my stuff was free!  Thank goodness.  I don't really know what the moral of the story is.  I could buy a new lock, but I'll probably forget that combo too.  The good news is that I was able to take a break from the kids, get in a nice full body strength training workout, and that I am blessed enough to be able to complain and blog about first world problems such as these.  

As Becky likes to say, Onward and Upward!


Discovering the Wilderness (Hiking at the Wind Wolves Preserve)

Oh, play me some mountain music,
Like grandma and grandpa used to play...
Then I'll float on down the river...
To a Cajun hideaway.
-- Alabama 

Hello, friends! Sorry I have been so bad about posting lately. I've been a little overwhelmed with things at home and at work, and just haven't had a chance to capture all the ideas that are floating around in my head. First - a confession. I have not ran in over 3 weeks, and have multiple races coming up in the next 5 weeks. Yes, MULTIPLE. YIKES! I have a 5K tomorrow morning, another 5K next weekend, and a 10K at the beginning of May. Yes, I know I need to get back at it. Yes, I have allowed to give myself excuse after excuse to not run. And no... it's not funny anymore. So, I start my running training again tomorrow starting with that 5K, and with God's good grace, I might be able to finish that 10K by May. We'll see!

So, what have I been doing? Well, I have been lifting weights here and there, so that's good at least. And on the weekends, I've been hiking! One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to go hiking with my parents, and I sort of took it for granted that I would always live somewhere that hiking was accessible. After college, however, I found myself living in the very flat Houston, TX and similarly flat New Orleans, LA areas, and discovered that I had to find other ways to entertain myself outdoors. There were other things, mind you, but my heart longed to hike a mountain! Heck, I would have settled for a solid hill!

Since moving to California four years ago, I have quickly rediscovered my love for hiking. I'll probably post about several hikes in upcoming posts (I already posted about the Hollywood Sign Hike and my hike in Muir Woods), but today I will dedicate to my favorite hike as of late - the Wind Wolves Preserve in Kern County, California. 

The Wind Wolves Preserve is part of The Wildlands Conservancy, a non-profit nature preserve system "... comprised of fifteen preserves encompassing 147,000 acres of diverse mountain, valley, desert, river, and oceanfront landscapes." The Wind Wolves Preserve is the largest of the fifteen, covering over 93,000 acres. The elevation of the park ranges from over 600' to just over 6,000', which gives it the unique ability to expose visitors/hikers to a variety of climates and ecosystems in one area. Late winter and early spring are my favorite times to visit - this is when the hills are at their greenest, and the wildflowers are in impressive bloom!

There are a number of established trails throughout the preserve, but I've really only mastered two. I want to do the others, but they're just far enough to be too far for my dog, so I haven't made it out there yet. (My little basset hound is a trooper, but 3 to 4 miles seems to be his limit.). The trail I most often take with my dog is the San Emigdio Canyon Trail (pictured above). The full length of the San Emigdio Canyon Trail is just over 9 miles long, but we never go that far with Diego (my dog).

When hiking trails like this, I always look at the trail map and establish a goal turnaround point. I know my dog's limits (and mine), so I plan ahead. The worst thing you can do when you're hiking is get ahead of yourself, hike too far, and not have the stamina (or enough water) to get back safely. We always hike out to the willows/wetlands on this particular trail, and turn back. To this point, San Emigdo Canyon Trail is easy enough for almost all fitness levels and you get just enough elevation gain to feel like you have to work for it. It's not very shady, however, so take plenty of water and wear sunscreen! I've been told that you get greater elevation gain as you continue toward the reflection pond (approx. 1.8 miles further), so I rate the entirety of the trail more moderate than easy. 

The other trail I like to take is the Tule Elk Trail. Both the San Emigdo Canyon and Tule Elk Trails start at the same location, just south of the parking area. You'll veer to the left (east) for the San Emigdo Canyon Trail, and to the right for the Tule Elk Trail. The Tule Elk Trail looks deceptively easy. It's not easy, but it's not too hard. During the first two miles, you will steadily gain roughly 1000'. But then you get to the top... Oh, how it's worth it!

If you're smarter than me, you will follow the trail as it makes it way to the valley south of the summit, circling back to the parking area via the El Camino Viejo Bike Trail. This will give you a total distance of 7.8 miles, but your legs will thank you. If you're not as smart as me, you'll turnaround at the summit and go back the way you came, shaving off only 2 miles from your trip, but it's a steeper descent. (oh, my burning shins!) Haha. Lesson learned!

One of these days I'll go without my dog and hike the full length of the San Emigdo Canyon Trail. The folks at Nobody Hikes in LA did the full hike - you can read about it here. It looks awesome! Kern County is home to some of my favorite hikes in California, several within an hours drive of Bakersfield (Sequoia Park, Kern Canyon, Tehachapi, Wind Wolves, etc) and only two short hours from LA. I definitely recommend adding it to your list of hiking destinations! Hope you have a fun and active weekend, my friends. Happy Easter!