Thursday, April 29, 2010

Throw Me a Bone, Will Ya?!

As I write this, my children are enjoying Easter candy. My 9-year-old, Will, chose the large Hershey's Kiss, while my daughter Piper is enjoying spring colored M&M's. I excused myself to get a head start on my blog so I don't have to sit at the dinner table watching them lick the melted chocolate off their fingers.

I'm going to be honest with you. I'm in a bit of a funk. I gained a pound this week, after another week of really disciplined eating. I drank water instead of Diet Soda. I worked out four days a week at the gym -- for the second week in a row. My only significant cheat day (for which I saved my weekly bonus points) was on Saturday, at our friend Patty's 60th birthday party. Patty and her family are known for throwing parties with amazing food. I knew I was in trouble going into it. And the Mariachi Band sealed the deal. How can you listen to a Mariachi Band and not eat nachos and tamales, and drink Sangria?

But the rest of the week I was great! I drank my water. I stayed within my daily Weight Watchers points. I even special ordered my fish without the sauce at a work function on Friday night.

I worked out at the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, despite my now TWO aching knees. I am even one of the very few women at the gym who braves the downstairs weight room, which is typically where you'll find the beefy, tank-top-wearing, tattooed men working out to blaring rock music just before they go across the hall to bronze themselves in the tanning beds. And if you're really lucky, like I was tonight, you'll get to endure one of these beefcakes grunting with each bench press. Even Pink on my iPod couldn't drown out the sound.

Nonetheless, four times each week following my 35-minute workout on the elliptical trainer, you'll find me in the dudes' weight room leg pressing 110 pounds. No grunting.

And after all that, I gained a pound this week. GAINED a pound! And please don't tell me that muscle weighs more than fat. I know that it does. But it still doesn't help when you're staring down to read 1-7-0 on your scale each morning. 

With the up a pound, down a pound weight loss over the last couple of weeks, I'm back at a total 12 pound weight loss, on my way to losing 40 pounds by my 40th birthday.  Here's this week's pic.  Not the most flattering given that it was post workout.

Oh metabolism gods, I'm begging you to please throw me a bone this week!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jennifat No More

Since my last blog post a week ago, I have had one Diet Pepsi. One. For those of you who know me best , you will realize the significance of this.

Typically on any given day I would easily consume four to five diet sodas. Easily. In fact, I would always start my day with one. Fresh out of the shower, I'd get my bathrobe on, fire up the Sonicare electric toothbrush, and go to the refrigerator during the two minutes the toothbrush was going -- which is just enough time to get a Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke, whichever was on sale that week. And on the days I would go to Taco Bell or Subway for lunch, I'd purchase the largest Fountain Cup they had -- usually 48 ounces, I think -- and fill it to the brim with Diet Soda.  And I'd usually down one for dinner too.

So hopefully, you all now see the significance of me only having ONE Diet Pepsi this week. And the only reason I had it was because we had turkey burgers for dinners one night and I simply can't imagine eating that with anything else.

I decided this week to drink water instead of diet soda, just to see if it made me feel any differently, healthier maybe. I was inspired by a fellow blogger who is blogging about her own weight loss. She eliminated diet soda from her diet and noted that she felt better and even slept better, which she could tell in part because of the many dreams she had been having.

So I decided to give it a shot, hoping that in addition to possibly feeling better and less sluggish, that perhaps replacing diet soda with water would help me lose more weight this week. (I'll let you know later in this post if it did). Here's what I did notice: My skin is much more hydrated. In the past, I'd wake up in the morning with my face feeling really dry and tight. I'd slather on some face cream and yet a couple of minutes later, I'd feel like I needed more. This week, that didn't happen. I still put on face cream, but the water definitely made a difference with my skin. 

I also noticed, like my blogger peer, that I did have more dreams. Strange ones. I dreamt one night that I got a second job at the Gap on Powell Street in San Francisco. And I LOVED it! I also dreamt that my family and I moved into my parents house (my mom was still alive in this dream), and the kids and my husband and I all shared a room. Of course, I'm not sure if I should attribute these dreams as having anything to do with eliminating diet soda and, thus, getting a better night's sleep. I think they have more to do with my husband being one of the 22,000 California teachers who were handed pink slips.

I also went to the gym, as promised in last week's blog post, four times this week. That's more times than I've gone since I started my weight loss challenge. I've done, on average, 30 minutes each time on the elliptical machine, followed by 60 leg presses on the machine at the gym, something my physical therapist wanted me to do to help strenghthen my knee. Tonight I leg pressed 100 pounds. The other times I only did 90 pounds, but the guy before me (easily in his 60's) leg pressed 500 pounds, so I felt I needed to kick it up a notch.

Tonight at the gym. Special thanks to my gym buddy Andrea for delaying our workout so I could download some new music on my iPhone. Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas are definitely better to work out to than all those sappy ballads that had taken up about 90 percent of my former playlist.

I feel GREAT!  I really do. My legs feel stronger, and my knee isn't hurting as much. In fact, it's almost not hurting at all. My physical therapist, Jeannie, is thrilled with my progress. In fact, she's eliminated my twice weekly visits (which have been costing me a $15 co-payment and $4 bridge fair per visit) for two weeks, to focus on my workouts at the gym instead. She's going to check back with me in a couple of weeks and we'll go from there to see if she discharges me.

Realizing that exercise could help alleviate my knee pain was an eye opener for me. My lifestyle had become so sedentary, with no exercise incorporated whatsoever. I don't know if not exercising could have caused my knee pain, but I do know that exercising now is helping to prevent it. For me, that's enough to make a real lifestyle change. I definitely don't want to be a weak, flabby, forty-year-old. I want to be strong, vibrant, healthy and hydrated.

On that note, I have to share a text message I received this week from my brother Geoff. The one who used to do karate kicks that came just about an inch from hitting my face when we were younger. The one who gave me arm noogies that always left a bruise. And the one with whom I argued non-stop, driving our parents crazy to the point where decisions like who would get to sit in the front seat of the car when we were driving with mom were decided by me having Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and my brother having Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Honestly, I don't know what happened on that seventh day. 

This picture, taken in the 1970's, of my big brother Geoff, me in the eye patch I had to wear for a time in third grade because of my"lazy eye," and my mom in her curly perm and bell bottom jeans, makes me laugh every time I see it.

"Please don't take offense to this," he texted.  "But since you've lost weight, I just thought of a nickname for the old you -- Jennifat. Now you are back to Jennifer...congrats!  Don't be Jennifat again."

And then he typed in that winking smiley face.  Only a big brother could get away with that.

I'm happy to report that little sis lost weight this week!  I lost the pound I gained last week, plus another half pound. Bringing my total weight loss to 13 pounds!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Knee is Killing Me

"My knee is killing me!"  I didn't realize how often I had been saying that phrase until one night our 3-year-old daughter Piper opened the family room door while my husband and I were watching TV to exclaim, "My knee is killing me!" a new excuse she had created to get out of bed and avoid going to sleep.

It was then that I realized I needed to figure out why the heck my right knee was, indeed, killing me. And for the last 6+ months, that's exactly what I've been doing.  My treatment started with a Cortizone shot by my primary care provider for what was believed to be bursitis.  That worked for about three months, but then the pain came back stronger than ever, accompanied by a clicking in my knee.

I ignored it for a while, wondering if perhaps my weight was having an effect on my knee.  After all, as my doctor explained, every 10 pounds of weight loss takes 40 pounds of weight off your joints. So if at the beginning of my weight loss journey I was 40 pounds overweight, this is an additional 160 pounds on my joints!  Perhaps that's the culprit.

But even so, the pain became so persistent that I decided to go to an orthopedic doctor, Dr. Oberlander, who I was told has a particular talent for knees.  Being that Dr. Oberlander is the orthopedic specialist for the Oakland Raiders, I figured my knee would be in very capable hands.

I visited Dr. Oberlander for the first time about six weeks ago. Not having worked out in several months, I felt a little bit silly visiting his office with my non-sports-related injury, and walking down the hallway leading to the exam room filled with professional athlete-signed jerseys. He took an X-ray of my knee, which turned out negative. The next step, he recommended, was to get an MRI to see if there was a meniscus tear.

Ah, if only it were so simple. Truth be told, I think that losing 40 pounds by my 40th birthday will be easier than getting my insurance company to approve an MRI. I should write another blog with the theme of trying to get an MRI by my 40th birthday! Blue Shield denied the request because I had 1) not taken a non-steroid anti-inflamatory for four weeks and 2) not gone to physical therapy for four weeks.

So a week ago, I purchased a bottle of Motrin and visited the physical therapist, Jeannie, for my first bi-weekly visit that will continue until early May. Her observation, besides the fact that I have flat feet: my knee is swollen and warm to the touch (a sign of a persistent minor injury), I have GREAT ligaments (apparently that was in my chart!), and I need to get some more practical shoes (I could have told her that).  Up until now, I've always lived by the motto that it's better to look good than feel good. But now that I am approaching 40 and my knee is killing me, I need to take a trip to the Walking Store for some sensible shoes.

My knees marked up with pen after my first physical therapy appointment.  The coolest part?  When I showed the kids my written on knees, my 9-year-old son said, "Wow, Mommy!  Your legs are skinnier!"

During our last visit, Jeannie asked how soon after working out at the gym (which she is aware I do not do very much of) my knee started to ache. I honestly couldn't answer that question because I hadn't worked out in a couple of weeks. So yesterday evening, at her direction, I went to the gym and worked out on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes. One hour and 45 minutes later, my knee started to ache, which I thought wasn't too bad. But then, I did my assigned knee exercises before I went to bed and a sharp pain shot up the inside of my knee.  This time, my knee was really killing me.

I was so excited to tell Jeannie about this during my 3:30 p.m. physical therapy appointment. I knew for sure she would tell me to take a break from working out at the gym because I was overdoing it on my knee.  Predicting this outcome, I had it all planned out that, instead of going to the gym, I would instead get a pedicure. Ah, the best laid plans.

To my surprise, she actually told me to rotate going to the gym and doing my exercises, but just don't do both on the same day. She suggested, "Today, go ahead and go to the gym, and then tomorrow do your exercises." When I told her I was fully expecting (and hoping) she would order me not to work out today she laughted and said, "I don't think in my entire career I've ever told anyone not to work out."

Right after my appointment, I went to the gym. I did 20 minutes on the recumbant bike, and 10 minutes on the elliptical machine.

And THEN, I got my pedicure!

Let's hope stepping up my exercise program will help me battle the bulge this week, especially since I gained a pound over the last week, bringing my total weight loss to 11 1/2 pounds towards my goal of losing 40 pounds by my 40th birthday on August 15th.  Honestly, I'm not really sure why I gained a pound this week because I've been pretty disciplined with my eating. My goal for the upcoming week is to drink a lot more water and go to the gym at least four times. Let's hope this makes a difference. In the meantime, don't my toes look great?

Here's this week's pic of me, along with the "before" pic for comparison. 

Before (at a Project Linus event on Feb. 20th).  I absolutely detest this picture of me!

And today, 11.5 pounds lighter (in my practical shoes).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Very Own Easter Egg Hunt

If you've done Weight Watchers before, you'll know that you are allowed a certain amount of points each day.  Currently, I get 22, which translates to about 1,100 calories each day.  In addition to that, you have 35 "bonus points" that you can use each week.  You can split your bonus points up to add five more points to each day's allowance, or you can use all of your 35 bonus points for one big event, like a wedding, a fondue feast, or a trip to the movies so you can have a mega box of Hot Tamales and a medium buttered popcorn. 

I prefer the latter approach.  There's something about having one day a week when I can just pig out as much as I want that helps get me through the week.  However, I'll be honest that this approach usually leads to, how should I say it, "stomach issues" since your body is so used to a low fat diet and kind of freaks out at the fat and calorie overload. Sorry, TMI, but it's true.

So, needless to say I was probably looking forward to Easter Brunch at Mira Vista County Club far more than my own children Will and Piper were.  All week, they eagerly awaited the great egg hunt the club holds every year for the kids.  Despite the fact that it started pouring just about five minutes prior to the noon start time, the kids made the best of the hunt.  And Piper, for the second time in her three-year career of egg hunting (closely chaperoned and coached by mommy), once again, found the "golden egg" which earned her one of the five candy-filled Easter baskets reserved for the victorious hunters.

Will (in the hood) and his cousin Connor search for Easter eggs in the rain at Mira Vista Country Club.

Piper shows off the Easter basket she won after finding the "golden egg."  Check out those cute pink toes!

The only eggs I anticipated on Easter were eggs benedict.  I had a modest piece of two-point cheese for breakfast to tide me over until our 1:00 p.m. brunch seating.  Meaning, I still had 20 points left in my regular day's allowance, and also had 35 points to splurge with.  There's not much better than 55 points in the bank and an all-you-can eat brunch!

It was like I was on my very own Easter Egg hunt, searching for treats hidden in roll top chafing dishes and iced appetizer displays.

I had sushi, salami and cheese, and salad with ranch dressing for starters.  This was followed by eggs benedict with crab and the yummiest butternut squash raviolis topped with alfredo sauce.  I slid down jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, a few mimosas, roast beef with creamed horseradish sauce, and crabcakes with aioli sauce.

And don't even get me started about dessert.  There were chocolate covered marshmallows with nuts, chocolate dipped cheesecake balls on a stick, and of course my mother-in-law dressed the table with cute little chocolate eggs down the center, which I couldn't resist.  There was even caramel corn for the kids, or the kids at heart, like me.

This picture of my husband and me was taken just before our 1:00 p.m. brunch seating at the club.

I literally rolled out of there feeling, quite frankly, a little disgusted with myself.  But that feeling didn't last too long because I knew I'd be right back on track the following day. And I was.

Better yet, I had a great week of weight loss.  I lost another 2.5 pounds, bringing my total weight loss to 12.5 pounds...well on my way to losing 40 pounds by my 40th birthday on August 15th!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thank God for Matzos!

I knew I was in trouble Monday morning when I arrived to work. I walked into the break room to put the lunch my husband lovingly packed to help me meet my weight loss goal when suddenly, I come face to face with my nemesis -- Yehuda Matzos.

My Jewish colleague Lee brings Matzos into work once a year, during Passover. He places it on the table, along with a tub of whipped butter and salt (and pepper, but no need for that as far as I'm concerned). With the exception of all of the Christmas goodies found in our breakroom in December, the day Lee brings in Matza is by far my favorite. 

If you aren't familiar with it, Matza is the substitute for bread during the Jewish holiday of Passover, when eating chametz—bread and leavened products—is not allowed. Apparently, eating matza on the night of the seder is considered a positive mitzvah, i.e., a commandment. In the context of the Passover seder meal, certain restrictions additional to the chametz prohibitions are to be met for the matza to be considered "mitzva matza", that is, matza that meets the requirements of the positive commandment to eat matza at the seder.

So really, it would have been a sin NOT to eat the Matzos. And since I've always been the obedient God-fearing type, I had some. With butter. And salt. It was good. It was great. I had another one. It was even better.

I knew that before I got further into my Matza Meltdown, I'd better get online and track the points on Weight Watchers' online tracking system. And so I tracked:

X = {2TBSP butter (2 points) + 1 Matza bread (2 points)} x 2 servings
drumroll please....

Yes, 8 points. More than one-third of my daily allowance of 22 points. And before you say (like my friend Patricia did), "Just use some of your weekly 35 bonus points," if you must know, I had already run out of them by Monday. A certain work-related black-tie event which was on Saturday at the Westin St. Francis on San Francisco's Union Square -- complete with boneless short ribs, mashed sweet potatoes, grilled ham and cheese triangles, brie and grapes on little toast circles, and an open bar -- took care of my bonus points for the week, thank you very much!

My friend Holly (left) and I at the black tie event over the weekend. The event was certainly a good use of my bonus points for the week!

When you combine the matzos with my breakfast, a modest-two-point Yoplait Yogurt, and the lunch my husband packed (an 8-point Weight Watchers pizza), it's pretty easy to see that by 1 p.m. that day I was screwed!  Somehow, I had to get through the rest of the day on a mere four points. Yet, I was supposed to go to a dinner that very evening with my fellow committee members who worked on my son's school fundraiser two weekends prior. We were going to debrief the event, make suggestions for next year, toast our great work, and celebrate our "job well done" over our meal at the Union Hotel. 

That was just trouble waiting to happen with only four points left, and I knew it.  There is no way I could limit myself to one glass of wine and a bowl of 0-point celery sticks during a celebratory feast.

So I skipped the dinner meeting. It wasn't too difficult because when that morning (before the Matzos) I told my son I might not make his baseball game because I had a dinner meeting, he looked at me with those sad eyes. It didn't matter to him that we were celebrating a job well done raising $28,000 for his school. It just meant I would miss his game.

Before I go on, I must skip back a couple of weeks in my son's baseball career. He is at the age where they "try out" for baseball. The options for his age group (9/10) is Minor B or Minor A, with Minor A being the higher skill level. Will tried out and was disappointed when he learned he was selected for the Minor B Padres team. He had a great coach, and a few friends on the team, but he was disappointed. Nevertheless, he made the best of it and after the first few games of the season, he was clearly the team superstar, hitting triples and doubles on a regular basis.

One afternoon, we got the call. A coach for the Minor A Cardinals had seen Will play and wanted to draft him to their team. Will was absolutely over the moon when he found out. You couldn't wipe the smile from his face for days. To make a good situation even better, he has a lot of friends on his new team. Even though we knew it would be a little bit of an adjustment for him to transition to a new team, we agreed to let him do it. 

We brought the video camera to his first few games. Every time he got up to bat, my husband taped it. His first time at bat, Will got hit in the leg. Second time at bat, he struck out. Third time, he struck out again. That was followed by a walk, and then a strike out. And another one. Yet another one. Even then, Will never got discouraged and literally had a smile throughout each game.

Even so, it was clear to me he needed his groove back. He didn't seem to have the confidence he had when playing in the other league. And as a good -- albeit competitive -- mother, I gave him a pep talk. I told him that every time he goes to bat, he needs to believe that he is just as good as all the other players in the Minor A league, otherwise the coaches would not have hand-picked him. I suggested he try to visualize during the game the coaches pitching to him since he was able to hit off of them at practice. I told him that we all knew he was a great player, but that he had to believe it too, even if the kids pitch faster than they do in the other league.

And this is where my Matzos-misstep turned to be a blessing. Rather than join my fellow committee members for dinner, there I sat with my husband and daughter Piper in the stands at the friggin' freezing Field #1 at Community Park. With four points left in my day, my tummy was growling and my body was shivering, but we all rooted as Will went up to bat for the first time during the game.

He struck out.

But you know it can't end there. I wouldn't devote this much blog space to talking about my dear son striking out. That would be cruel!

Will got up to bat for the second and last time of the game. I overheard one coach telling him that he knows he can hit because he's seen him do it. The other coach yelled out, "Come on Will, hit a homerun!" And with that, Will walked up to the plate with his bright red batting helmet with the chin strap and his dark blue aluminum bat. And a smile on his face.

The pitcher pitched a perfect strike and Will, with a single smooth stroke, NAILED it.  Absolutely nailed it!  It went all the way into left field, took one bounce and hit the fence. He ran. And ran. And ran. And as the third-base coach waved him home, the stands erupted in even louder cheering and even little sister Piper was jumping up and down. Our son got an in-the-park homerun. It was amazing. More amazing than Matzos. I'm so glad I was there to witness it.

His teammates gave him a high-five as he headed back into the dugout. His coach awarded him with the game ball when the competition was over. Over the moon doesn't even begin to capture it. His team lost the game, but who the heck is counting?!

The game ball

To celebrate, Will had nachos from the snack shack. I had a 2-point piece of cheese and a bowl of carrot sticks, with a TBSP of fat free ranch to dip it in.

Ah, the sweet taste of victory.

That wasn't the only triumph in the Whitty household this week. I'm pleased to report that despite the Matzos, I lost another 1.5 pounds, bringing my total weight loss to 10 pounds. 10 down, 30 to go!