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Hello MFP, my old friend...

I've come to lose weight on here again. Fortunately, this time around, I don't have as far to go. Forgive me if you've heard it before, but because I like telling my story, I'm going to tell it again.

In the spring of 2012 (almost 4 years ago, wow!), I was at my highest weight ever: about 190 lbs, which, for a girl only 5'2" in height, put me well into the obese category. It was my 4th year of grad school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future, and I hated my body. Then, I found MFP.

A friend of mine in grad school had managed to lose a ton of weight on this website, and had also learned to love running by starting with the Couch to 5K (C25K) program. I was so inspired by her progress that I decided to follow in her footsteps, first joining up here, and also getting started with C25K. I gingerly stepped on the scale (after avoiding it for years), recorded my start weight, put some goals in place, and we were off!

Over the next year and a bit, I kept on keeping on with the program, and surely enough, by July 2013 I had lost 50 lbs! I felt great, looked great, and I was much healthier than I'd ever been, even as a teenager. Probably most importantly, I felt great about my body. Dare I say, I loved my body. On top of that, I felt I had control over one very important aspect of my life. With the uncertainty of my final months of grad school on my mind, this was definitely a nice change.

At 140 lbs, I was really happy with my weight, though I figured that I could probably stand to lose another 5-10 lbs. After all, I would have to be under 136.7 lbs to have a BMI in the "healthy" category (though the accuracy of that metric can certainly be questioned). But, as fate would have it, I just couldn't seem to bust through those last few pounds. I think my weight dipped into the healthy BMI range a couple of times, but I finally had to admit to myself after several months of being at the same weight, that I had hit that dreaded plateau.

A few attempts were made to break through the plateau, which included bulleted goals lists and plenty of good intentions, but in the end, I think I gave up a bit. My goals shifted slightly as well. I started to focus more on running, and I managed to run my first half-marathon in May 2014. And then, you know, life happened...

By early 2015, the weight was definitely creeping up again. I had gained back over 10 of those dreaded pounds by the end of summer, and at the beginning of October, I just stopped. I didn't record my weight, I didn't log into MFP, and I didn't bother to watch what I ate. I also ran a second half-marathon in September, after which I experienced a bit of a running burn-out. I haven't gone on a run since. My one saving grace is that I acquired a bike in March, and have been using it as my primary means of transportation.

Well, it's only a few days into 2016, and with the new year comes a new beginning. I was starting to notice my clothing fitting more tightly, and a definite change in my figure, and so yesterday, I mustered up the courage to again gingerly step on the scale. It read 156.6 lbs, which actually wasn't as bad as I'd feared. I updated my weight on MFP, set some new goals, did a Jillian Michaels video, and we're off to the races. I even managed to eat at a deficit for two days in a row, with a good start today.

This time around, I want to keep it simple. I'm only going to worry about eating at a deficit to start with (and maybe do a little extra exercise here and there) until I start seeing some substantial losses. For now, no training plans, no macronutrient goals, no extra complications. I don't want to get overwhelmed again.

Wish me luck! 

Changes in my face over 2 years (Animated!)

Ouf... I'm really not good at updating this blog. But! I finally got around to making an animated GIF of some pictures of my face I took over the course of the two years of my weight loss journey. The difference between the beginning and end are quite striking... and not just because I cut my hair really short in November 2013.

Enjoy! 

New shoes and aiming for the sub-30 5k

I've been running regularly for almost 3 years now. In this time, I've gone from not being able to run for more than a minute to being able to run 30 minutes without stopping (thank you C25k!), from being able to run a 5k in just over 50 minutes to now being able to run it in just over 30 minutes. My next goal is to finish a 5k in under 30 minutes.

I had hoped to achieve that goal at the Pride and Remembrance Run this year, but it was not to be. I ran a fantastic race, but I was just half a minute shy of my goal, finishing at 30:38. It was still a personal best by almost a minute, but I couldn't help but being a tad disappointed. I made up for it afterwards by eating my fill of wings and beer.

I haven't run a lot of races since then. I did run the ElectroDash in early September, but that was also a bit of a disappointing experience. The weather was insanely stormy and so the race had to be delayed by over half an hour. Once the organizers decided it was safe to run, there wasn't a proper start, people just started running. And then the course wasn't well demarcated, so some people accidentally took shortcuts which caused a crazy bottleneck near the beginning. I finished in approximately 26 minutes (it wasn't timed either, so that's what the stopwatch on my phone said), but then my running partner who had a fancy GPS thingy said that the route was only about 4.5km. So I might have run a sub-30 minute 5k, but I can't be sure.

The next race coming up is the Santa Suffle this coming Saturday. I'll be the first to admit that I've been so busy with work that I haven't had that much time to train. I only got in about one run a week for the last three weeks. I've stepped it up this week since I've had a bit more time, but I'm pretty sure that I haven't trained enough to reach my goal.

With hopes of improving my speed, I did finally buy new running shoes! I had put over 900km on my previous pair, which I had bought at the end of June 2013. They were Saucony Stabil CS2 shoes, which I loved, and which were, in fact, on sale for $60 (!!) at the Running Room I stopped in on with the goal of getting new runners. As luck would have it, they didn't have my size. The shoes I ended up picking up were Saucony Hurricane 16s, which I adore. It feels like running on a cloud.

 Aren't they pretty? They're so pretty. And I'm hoping they'll make me speedy. I went for 5k in a fairly good time yesterday after very little training for the last few weeks, so I guess we'll see. I'll just have to hope that the race-day excitement carries me through. Wish me luck!

Back on track after a year-long plateau

It may seem a little ridiculous, but I haven't lost any weight since last summer. I first wrote about this plateau last November (see How to break my plateau: A plan), when I was hovering around 140 lbs. After implementing a few of the things outlined in that post (though, admittedly, not super seriously), I saw the scale start to go down in mid-April, and by the beginning of May, I was hovering closer to 137 lbs.

But, as you can see from the chart above, my weight started to creep up again after a couple of trips, some birthday parties where I overindulged, and finally moving at the end of July which threw a lot of my routines out of whack (and probably increased the stress eating). I'm now again hovering around 140 lbs. I wasn't tracking my food as much as I should, and though I was pretty good about keeping to a training plan, I probably missed a few too many workouts.

The funny thing is, even though I'm a few pounds from a healthy BMI and about 10 lbs heavier than I'd ultimately like to be, it hasn't been bothering me that much. I love my body more than ever these days. I've been focusing on so much more than the last few pounds of fat that I want to shed: how I can run for hours, how I have more energy, how I feel so much healthier, and how I now feel like I'm a normal-sized human instead of a whale. It seems like I'm at the point where these last few pounds really are just "vanity pounds".

However, one must eventually face the facts that these last few poounds really do have to go. And so, I'm back to tracking consistently. For the rest of the month of September, I have the following goals for every day:

 

  • Drink at least 8 cups of water
  • Eat at a caloric deficit of at least 250 calories (for a 0.5lb/week loss)
  • Get at least 25g of fibre
  • Get at least 60g of protein
  • Exercise (running, JM videos, kettlebell Tabatas, and a bit of yoga)
Wish me luck!

 

Oh yeah, I guess I ran a half-marathonā€¦ no biggie...

Haha... Ok, it's kind of a biggie. If you had told me 2 and a half years ago that I would complete a half-marathon (that's 21 km for the uninitiated), I would have laughed in your face. Yeah. Right. When I first started the Couch to 5k program in April 2012, I could barely run for 30 seconds without wheezing and gasping for air. And now? I can run for hours without needing to stop.

Last weekend was the Toronto Women's Half Marathon. I had more or less stuck to my Half-Marathon training plan, even though life got in the way of completing every single run I had planned to do. I at least got all the long runs in, so I could work up to the full 21 km. The morning of the race was sunny and gorgeous, and I met up with my buddy Steph at the start line. It was her fourth half-marathon.

For some reason, the first 5 km were really hard. I might have been pushing myself a little harder than usual because of race-day jitters, and when i looked at my watch after the first 5k, I had run it in about 34 minutes, which is a pretty fast time for me. After the first few km, I got my stride a bit and it felt better until about 12km... after that point, I was just counting down the km until I could get to the end. It wasn't easy, that's for sure, and the day started to get hotter. It was a sunny 24 or so degrees by the end.

Fortunately, along the way there were several water stations, some of which were manned by firemen (*grins*), and I figured the best way to get through it was to walk until I gulped down my water and then keep running. That seemed to work out, as I didn't have to slow to a walk at any other time. There was also a gel station and a chocolate station :D

The best part of the race, of course, was the last few hundred metres. After the 20 km marker, there were little signs along the road saying that we were almost there. Right before the last turn before the finish line, one of the volunteers asked if she could run with me, and then accompanied me most of the way to the finish line. She congratulated me on doing my first half-marathon, and that gave me a little boost of speed. By the time the finish line was in sight, I was in full-blown runner's high mode. The cheers from Steph and her friends almost put me over the edge. I was crazy emotional, but the endorphins carried me through to the very end. It was awesome.

And now a couple of pics! The race organizers were nice enough to provide free copies of our race photos!

Those last painful hundred metres:

Crossing the finish line:

And Steph & me being silly afterwards:

I've been told that once you do a half-marathon, you'll want to do another. I'm not so sure about that at this point, but maybe when the memory of how hard it was starts to fade, I'll start to think about signing up for the next one! 

Half-Marathon training plan

As I mentioned last post, I'm running a half-marathon in May. In the spirit of staying accountable, I thought I'd show you my training plan (as I said, loosely based off of Hal Higdon's Novice 2 program).

(The days that are crossed through are the days I've already completed my workout.)

 You might have noticed that the first part of this plan is my winter strength training program, based on the Intermediate Level training program from You Are Your Own Gym (a really fantastic read). I was working on focusing more on bodyweight strength training exercises this winter. Who knows if it has actually made a difference, but it's been a nice change and somehting I can work on inside.

So the first real week of training is supposed to be this one, and of course, this is the week that the polar vortex decides to make its reappearance. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 5k, but it's also supposed to be a high of -6 C. I guess I'm just going to have to suck it up, get out there, and hope it gets warmer in the following weeks. And also hope that I don't kill myself on the slippery sidewalks.

I must be insaneā€¦ on the subject of half-marathon training

Yup. I've lost it. Ilana of 2 years ago would think that her future self had gone off the rocker. I've signed up for my first half-marathon on May 25th. It's the Toronto Women's Half Marathon, which should be a pretty safe first race. I'm still terrified. This will be the furthest I've run so far. I've got a pretty good handle on the 10k, but 21k? Ouf.

It doesn't help that the weather has been crap this winter and that it's only been warm enough to go out for a run relatively recently. Even then, the sidewalks are still so snowy that even a short run is super tough. I ran a bit last week, and attempted to do a 5k, but it was so slushy and slippery that I only managed a bit over half my route before I had to head home because my knees and hips were killing me. The weather is supposed to get warmer this week, so I'll try again.

What worries me the most, I think, is that when I'm supposed to start my 12-week program next week (loosely based off of Hal Higdon's Novice 2 program), we're supposed to get -10 temperatures again. Since I don't have access to a treadmill, I'll just have to suck it up, I guess. I've got my fingers crossed that we start getting warm weather soon.

I'll admit though... I've missed running a lot. And even if it's slushy and cold, I'm going to enjoy getting back out there. Again, me from 2 years ago would not believe it. 

Vacation picture

Hmm... it's been a little while, hasn't it? Well, I have an awfully good excuse: I've visited three different countries in the last five weeks! Mid-December, as those of you who pay attention to these things might recall, I went on a trip to the Dominican Republic with my parents and my boyfriend for a week at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Plata. It was amazing and warm and I loved every moment (especially escaping the super cold temperatures in Toronto). I then spent a week home for the holidays, and a few days after that, the boyfriend and I hopped on the plane to Switzerland for a two-week stay primarily to visit our new niece. While there, we decided to take a side-trip to Germany, and spent two days in Munich and three days in Berlin. Again, every moment was really amazing.

And as this is a fitness and health blog, I should probably list my transgressions. While in that tropical paradise, there was an all-you-can-eat buffet which I certainly helped myself to, and I also took ample advantage of the limitless free booze. The extent of my exercise was swimming in the ocean and the pool (although most of the time in the pool was spent by the pool bar), and an hour I spent at the on-site fitness centre one of the days. In Europe, the boyfriend and I didn't eat anything green with all of our meals consisting of heavy portions of meat, cheese, and starchy carbs. And we drank A LOT of beer... so much delicious beer... In Berlin and Munich, we did a ton of walking, but not much exercise was done besides that. (My plan to do body-weight exercise a few times a week failed miserably.)

After all this, what is my punishment? Well, as it turns out, I haven't gained a single pound. It totally doesn't make any sense to me. Even after having been dehydrated and sleep-deprived on an airplane the whole trip back, the day after our return, I weighed exactly what I'd weighed when we left. I'm rocking this maintenance thing, apparently (even though I'm maintaining at 10 lb above my ideal weight). I guess I'm naturally adjusting to a more normal portion size and somehow getting more exercise than I thought?

Anyway, the whole point of this post was really to show you how awesome I look in a bikini. The below pic was taken in the Dominican right before I was about to swallow my weight in sea water while snorkeling. Besides that slight belly pooch, I'm pretty happy with how I'm looking!

 

And because babies are adorable, here's my new niece. She's so cute when she's sleeping! 

 

How to break my plateau: A plan

Ok, so I haven't actually lost any weight since mid-July. That's *counts on fingers* four and a half months of plateauing! It's funny (though not really funny ha-ha) how the first 35 or so pounds came off fairly easily, the next 15 were a little tougher, and now the last 10 seem impossible. I'm still at about 140 lb, which is 10 lb heavier than I want to be and 3-4 lb above a healthy BMI. It's tempting to think, "Well, I guess this is where I stop losing", but I know I can get rid of more flab.

I had a bit of a wake-up call today. In a little under two weeks, I'll be going on vacation to the Dominican Republic (woohoo!), which will be my first real vacation since I started grad school. I plan to leave my computer at home, and only use my Kindle for reading, and just totally unplug from the outside world. In preparation for the occasion, I bought myself a new bikini today, and even though it looks pretty awesome (don't worry, I'll post pictures eventually), I'm definitely still pretty squishy.

So with 2013 on its way out, it's time to reassess the plan and figure out how to get rid of that last little bit of flab. I've been reading a bunch of articles on the interwebs, and I think I have some ideas of what to try.

Focus more on weight training

The first bit of my plan is to work more weight training exercises into my routine. My exercise routine so far has been mostly focused on running. I've been sticking to my plan, more or less (less with the colder weather), and working towards doing better at the races I've signed up for, but that means I've just been running four times a week and doing JM videos a couple of times a week. Even though JM incorporates some "strength" exercises into her workouts, it's probably not enough to help with body recomposition, especially when I'm not doing them that often.

After I'm done the Santa Shuffle 5k next week, I'm going to change up my routine to mostly include body weight exercises instead of focusing on running. That more or less coincides with my trip to the Dominican, so I hope that works out. I've been reading "You Are Your Own Gym" and it has plenty of exercises and routines I can follow (I'll probably review it at some point). For a bit of cardio, I can do Tabatas and still follow some of the JM videos. 

Tightening up my diet

 Sigh... It's time to admit that maybe, just maybe, calories in vs. calories out isn't the whole story (I can just hear my mom going, "I told you so!"). My diet is pretty refined carb heavy, and I don't get nearly enough protein and fibre. I've gotta stop eating so many cookies, cakes, breads, and all that stuff, and start eating more veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs that have a pretty high fibre content.

I think a reasonable goal is to at least try to hit my protein and fibre macros for a little while, and to avoid processed foods as much as possible. When I get back from all these trips I'm going on in the next little while (after I get back from the Dominican, I'm going to Quebec for a week, and then Switzerland for two weeks), I'll be able to really implement a proper diet change. It's going to require a lot more thinking about food choices than I've been doing so far, but if that's what it takes to make me less squishy, then so be it.

Getting all those fluids in 

I made a pledge a while back to really get my 8 cups of water in a day, and I kept that up for a little while, but I haven't been as good about it lately. It should be an easy thing to keep up, but for some reason, I always forget to drink water! Anyway, I've read that most north americans are chronically dehydrated, which might be an impedance to weight loss. So yeah... *chug chug chug*

I don't generally count any other kind of liquid as water, except for tea, towards my total cups of water for the day. Fortunately, I've all but cut out soda and juice from my diet (I was never really a huge fan), except for the occasional Coke Zero as a treat. I'm going to have a hard time cutting alcohol down (especially while on vacation), but it might be a good idea to limit that as well.

Sigh... dieting is hard. 

A hair cut and a Halloween costume

This is a little late, I suppose, but I'd like to show off my Halloween costume! I went as Inara Serra from Firefly (a blondish version):

I borrowed the corset and shawl from a buddy of mine, but the rest of the pieces (the dress and jewelry) I had lying around. I don't have many occasions to wear that ridiculous gold necklace. I also braided my hair to make it all wavy. 

This picture also highlights how frickin' long my hair was. And then last week, I chopped it all off!

Now that's a before & after shot of a different kind, eh? Anyway, I love the new hair cut. It's super low maintenance, it's better for exercising, and I don't spend nearly as much time in the shower! 

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