Spark Progress

So now that I am a little over a week into the SparkPeople system, I will share how I’m doing.

I’m doing fantasic, thank you for asking!

After the first week I have lost 3 lbs.  I’m not measuring inches, just going by how my clothes fit, because I’ve learned that for me the measuring tape is more neurosis building than the scale.

Not only have I lost some weight but I feel fucking fabulous!  I was confronted with a pot luck at the dojang this past Saturday (black belt presentations – one of my instructors is now Sah Bum Nim – 5th degree Black Belt), I had 1/2 piece a cake, a potsticker, some fruit and veggies and then I bolted.  Talking with a fellow student I mentioned that I am pleasantly surprised with how much better I feel not just physically but mentally.  He made the comment “Garbage in, garbage out” and until now I never realized how true that is.

One of the things I’ve always struggled with was eating right and not giving into every craving that came my way.  After eating amazingly clean for a week, I now have a very clear reason to keep going – my mental health.  I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past, and the past few days I feel like I love everything, everywhere.  Never before has any “diet” caused this great a positive shift in how I feel.  On the Zone and BFL I was always cranky and sometimes headachy.  On the SparkPeople plan I am actually enjoying my life and feel like I have the energy to do whatever I want.

Now, I’m  not saying that this system is perfect, there are a few things I would change (like getting rid of any fat-free food items and just use real food in smaller quantities if possible).  Not much irks me more than manufactured foods (think margarine, or fat-free cheese).  That being said, there are more “reduced-fat” items than “fat-free” and to me that isn’t too bad.

I love how they have goals structured as well.  You get a little check-box that you tick when you complete a goal.  It sounds so basic, yet there is something satisfying about marking down that I remembered to take my vitamin, or do sit-ups, or drink water.  I’m thinking of adding one for flossing my teeth, since I always seem to forget that.

Somehow, I’ve also gotten a lot more motivation to just add extra movement to my day as well.  I try to park as far away from the entrance to the grocery store as I can.  Instead of sitting and knitting during my daughter’s ballet and exercise class I go for a walk.  This weekend my whole family went on a 2.5 hour bike ride then followed with a 1.5 hour walk in the evening, and it was enjoyable!

All in all I’m just going to roll with it.  I don’t really care how I’m getting it work, it’s more important to me that it is working.  We’re also planning a trip in the fall to Vegas and I want to feel as good about myself as I possibly can.

That and I want to look slammin’ in a new wardrobe.



You know how I keep joking that when it comes to working for myself I’m a pretty slackadaisical boss?

I’ve known for quite some time that I work well when under somebodies direction.  I pretty much live for carrying out orders, looking for approval, and doing it better than anyone else.  Not only that, but I tend to be task oriented.  I think it feeds into my perfectionist tendencies.  A task can be completed, checked off the list, finished and on to the next one.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon SparkPeople.  My first reaction was, oh it’s just another nutrition tracking program like FitDay or LoseIt.   Digging a little deeper I had flashbacks of WeightWatchers, and downing so few calories because I filled up on high point items that I would be dizzy anytime I stood up.

Digging deeper still and following the program for a few days, plus purchasing and starting to read the book, The Spark, on my new Kindle I have to say I’m impressed!  It’s not full of empty “Rah, Rah, you can do it!” cheerleading.  It has a TON of articles about everything from food & nutritioin, to motivation, to a whole encyclopedia of health articles.  They also have exercises for you do do (worksheets and such) to help you figure out what your goals are and create reminders that you can use (offline) to help you stay focused.

One of my biggest problems with “diets” is the lack of variety.  With WW, I tended to have my core foods and stick with them.   For a week or two that’s not bad.   For three months it’s brutal.  I had similar problems with The Zone.  Not only did I tend to settle into eating the same snacks – all.the.time. – but I hated having to do all the calculations for myself.  Sure, I could have used some energy to put together an Excel program for myself, but by that time I lost interest.

I’m on my third day on SparkPeople and so far I’m impressed with the variety and quality of the foods they suggest.  For meals I’ve had lightly glazed salmon with veggies & brown rice, pork tenderloin with sweet potato and applesauce,  black bean salad, a lentil burrito with sour cream, cheese & tomato, and an egg white sandwich with strawberries.  There’s enough variety that when I start to create my own plan, I will have a pretty large database of meals to choose from.  Oh, and so far they are all delicious!  I was able to make the pork loin in the slow cooker with onion, garlic & herbs (my addition), I made a light glaze to put on the salmon (added only about 20-30 calories), and they allow substitutions.  The software even suggests them if you don’t like what they suggest you eat.

They suggest three meals a day with a snack.  My only issue is that the breakfasts seem a bit small.  Like a lot of the other programs, there is a way to track water and fruit/veggie consumption.

My favorite part is that it’s structured in stages.  I’m in Stage 1 so I’m following the nutrition plan and I have just three small additional goals I need to follow.  First is to drink 8 glasses of water a day (I can manage 6 – anymore and I might as well put my name on the bathroom door and conduct all business from there), the second is to do a minimum of 30 crunches or push-ups a day.  The third is to reward myself daily.  I think for a reward I’m going to put aside a dollar a day to spend however I see fit.  Either I can get some lip gloss at the end of the week or save it until the end of the month and maybe buy an item of clothing.

I’m not certain what is added in Stage 2, but I will let you know when I get there.

Oh, oh, oh!   I forgot the best part.  Other than the book (obviously) everything is FREE!  That’s right no charge.  For anything.  Ever.  If you are on SparkPeople and want to look me up, I’m MinivanNinja.

Scrub the Chub

In an effort to keep myself honest, I’m going to post my weight loss stats here.

Starting Weight:    190 lbs. (ugh! although I’ve been told I carry it well, everybody thinks I’m at least 20 lbs. lighter than I really am)

Chest:  43″ (braless measure because my bras make this measurement vary)

Waist:  36.5″

Hips:  46.5″

I will weigh myself weekly and post the results, probably in the sidebar.

It All Comes Back Around

Black Belt

After suspending my training almost a year ago, not a day has passed that I haven’t thought of Tae Kwon Do.  I would find myself performing a poomsae or kicks while waiting for water to boil on the stove, I’d stare at the mirror and practice punches and blocks.

It’s undeniable, Tae Kwon Do has become part of me, part of who I am.   Grandmaster was right, once a Black Belt, always a Black Belt.

So what do I do with this knowledge?  Do I practice on my own, fine tuning what I have already learned?


What I did was contact one of my instructors and let her know that I’m ready to come back to training.  I’m not going to be there 3-4 nights a week plus a private lesson and instructorship training.  I’m just going to class two days a week to train, and that’s it.

While I’m a bit embarrased with the weight I gained while on hiatus (I did no training/exercise of any sort.   NONE!), I’m excited to be going back.  Returning to the dojang has given me the motivation to get off my ever expanding ass and get my shit in order.  My diet is no longer slapdash and unstructured, I’m following a Zone-ish plan (very similar to BFL but a bit more relaxed and less gag-inducing protein shakes and rubberized chicken), and I’ve started doing pilates at home in order to get myself ready for P90X.

Big plans for self-improvement is in the works, I just need to pace myself so I don’t burn myself out before I get really started.

It’s interesting.  Since I left Tae Kwon Do I’ve been carrying around this restless feeling, like I forgot something.  Turns out it was that feeling of not-finishing my training that has haunted me.

Coming back to where I think I belong feels good.

Baby Steps

Since discontinuing my training, I have put on some weight.  It was inevitable since I went from 3+ days a week training to none.  My pants are a wee bit tight and I need to try to get myself moving again.  Gardening helps, but it’s not always a workout, nor would I want it to be.  As long as we can get ourselves together in time, my youngest daughter and I will walk to and from school.  That’s at least 15-20 minutes of light movement.  My husband and I are going to the gym and I’m going to stick with cardio for now until my stamina gets back to where I need it.  I’m also attempting (and failing more often than not) to drink more liquids.

Notice I didn’t say water.  Water will factor in, but right now I’ll be happy with anything in liquid form.

I’m also trying to gently and subtly change the state of the food in our house.  My vegetable garden will help with that for sure, but one of the things I’m working to reduce in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  A lot of what I’ve read and heard about it is not good, and it is alarming how much corn is in everything we eat.  So as we run out of some things (like the fake maple syrup I love), I’m going to attempt to replace it with more natural stuff.  There are a few things that I’m having a hard time giving up, but there are others that have been a painless switch.  I found a bread without HFCS that I love, and my attempt to eat more natural has caused me to be even more of a label reader.  I already read labels on everything due to food allergies in my family, so it’s no more work to check for other non-desirables in the ingredient list.

I also suspect that one of the reasons I put on weight so easily is the sugar that seems to be in everything.

So give me some feedback.  Have you reduced your consumption of HFCS, and if so, have you noticed any changes in weight, mood, energy, appetite?

P90X = Ooof

Well, well, well, what have we here?  Amy decided to take the plunge, step up her game, and jump into P90X.  I’ve been at the same state of fitness for several months now, and while I’m happy here, for the most part, I really would like a smokin’ bod at least once in my life.  Plus I was informed that the core exercises our one masochistic instructor has us do are from Ab Ripper X.  Sweet.

Anyhoo, I completed my second day (1st day chest & back, 2nd day plyometrics) and I’m already floored.  I knew going in that this system is very difficult, so I figured the first week I’ll give it about 75% to get familiar with it.  Even backing off the intensity I’m still groaning like an arthritic octogenarian getting in and out of my seat, or going up or down stairs.  I am SORE people!!  I’m keeping up with the Zone diet through this and will up the protein if I feel I need to.

After my workout, in that quiet 5 minute walk to pick up my daughter from school, I had an AH-HA moment about what motivates me.  (HINT P90X does not, really – but my body is the type where I have to work damn hard if I’m to get my ass off this comfy plateau I’m on).  I think that I love martial arts so much because it’s a form of exercise that has a purpose.  I don’t really look at it as exercise actually, it’s something I do for fun.  Now going to the gym or doing a home system like P90X is much harder for me to get into.  First, there’s that whole self-motivation thing.  I’m not accountable to anybody but myself, and I tend to be a pretty slackadaisical boss.    But also the purpose of doing exercise for fitness’ sake seems a little abstract and nebulous to me.  Sure I want a slammin’ body and would really like to avoid the heart disease that runs rampant on both sides of my family, but other than that, it’s difficult for me to frame it in a way where I see the practical application of it.  Sure I won’t be huffing and puffing like someone with emphesyma while sparring, and my kicks and punches will have more power, but that isn’t what motivates me.   Fun motivates me.  Tae Kwon Do is FUN!  Doing pull ups and push ups until my muscles burn?   Not so fun.

Maybe it’s my childlike need for immediate gratification.  Maybe I should hook up with the few black belts that follow this program and use them as sort of a buddy system.  Make myself more accountable.  But I already feel my brain trying to give me grief and resisting the desire to exercise.  Perhaps I’m just TOO comfortable in this comfort zone and I need to suffer a bit before I finally find it fun.

Interestingly, I’m finding it easier to watch what I eat than work up the motivation to work out.  I also have doubts about the program working.  I’m suffering from what if-itis.  What if I can’t ever get through every exercise for every second in every workout?  What if I gain muscle weight, but somehow still manage to hang on to every ounce of fat I currently have residing on my belly and ass?  What if I go through all this and 90 days later I don’t look any different?  (I admit, it’s mostly vanity that’s driving me right now).  I am planning on taking before pictures tomorrow so I have at least something to compare to later.  I plan on taking pictures at 1 month, 2 months and 3 months.

Any advice for this 38 year old former couch potato?  Other than take some ibuprofen?

Thoughts from my Morning Ride

I logged 14.75 miles today and I also made some observations, presented to you in a handy dandy bullet list, whee!

  • How is it that my route felt like it was uphill both ways?
  • To the lady coming out of the dog park with her dog on a 10′ lead.  It is not cool to stop to talk to your friend while you allow your dog to cross the path using the entire length of the leash.  Then when you saw me, you still moved at a snail’s pace to cross, making me slow from 12 mph to zero on crushed limestone.  You suck.
  • Acorns make traction on crushed limestone a little dodgy.
  • When walking three abreast towards me while taking up the entire path, please step back to your half of the path for the 1.2 seconds it will take me to pass you.  I do not want to go on the grass.  There is a reason it is called a forest preserve.
  • Why are the buttons from some crosswalks over 15′ away from where I need to stop to cross?  By the time I push the button and get back in position, the light is yellow.  WTF?
  • To the lady who turned left in front of me to get to the bank.  You suck.
  • To the man in the van waiting to get buzzed into the private drive, thank you for pulling up to give me more room to get around.  I said thank you, I hope you heard me.
  • To the city of Naperville.  Why install a crosswalk button that doesn’t work?  I pushed it and waited two light cycles before I gave up and crossed on the red, hoping that the opposite direction traffic didn’t get the green when I was halfway across.
  • To the lady who let me turn left at the 4-way stop without requiring me to come to a full stop, thank you.  I was willing to stop, and was hoping that you would let me go, but didn’t expect it.

I spent a good time yesterday cleaning my chain & derailleur (it was neglected for a while) and adjusting the brakes.  Sadly though, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  Or as my husband likes to say, you can’t polish a piece of shit.  For a whopping 5 minutes, my brakes were quiet, then they started chattering again.  I probably could use new brake pads.  The loud brakes work to my advantage though when I engage them to slow before passing someone.  They make my presence known.