As I have mentioned in previous posts, my journey to strength training at Ludus Magnus began with back pain. Chronic, limiting, debilitating back pain.
I lived with it every day. Some days it was a low-level ache, a kind of white noise that lingered in the background of my daily movements. Other days, I would have recurring spasms in my low back, accompanied by sharp stabbing pain in my ass cheeks that radiated through my hips and down my legs.
In hospitals and doctors’ offices they have pain rating scales such as this where they ask patients to assign a number to their pain level:
I lived between 4 and 9. Even with chiropractic care and massage therapy 1-3 times per week, daily ibuprofen, regular stretching, and multiple icing sessions per day, it never got better than 4. Continue reading “Anatomy of a Pain in the Ass”→
I took last week off from blogging to enjoy several days of Valentines Day and birthday-related fun, and spent some much-needed time with loved ones. But I’m back from my little mini-vacation to present the thrilling conclusion to the MyFitnessPal Trilogy. (Poking a bit of fun at myself here; I strive to not take myself quite that seriously!)
To recap: in Episode 1, I described what life was like before MyFitnessPal. In Episode 2, I finally began using the app to track my food every day, and learned the hard truth about what I was really eating. This final installment in our little saga is about what life is like today…
As of the publication of this post, I have logged into MyFitnessPal for 679 days in a row. It’s a way of life that works for me; it has become my new normal. Far from being a burdensome chore, it has freed me from how I used to live. Tracking my food every day has brought many gifts to my life, but the greatest one of all is not what you might expect. It’s not higher protein intake, or reduced sugar, or even weight loss.
For most of my life, I have eaten compulsively. Food was my drug, my first choice for comfort, entertainment, and pleasure. So much of my behavior was mindless and automatic, driven by craving and habit rather than intention. That used to be my way of life; that was my normal. Continue reading “The MyFitnessPal Trilogy Episode 3: Free to Eat”→
A brief recap of where we left off in Episode 1 of our Trilogy… Spring 2015: I was coming off a month-long emotional eating bender, exhausted by my own behavior, unwilling to undo the gains I had made at the gym with a lousy diet, and determined to face the truth about what I was really eating every day.
My journey at Ludus Magnus up to that point had already shown me the importance of small, gradual changes. So, when I loaded MyFitnessPal back onto my phone and began tracking my food, I purposefully did NOT make immediate changes to my diet. The first two weeks or so were purely a fact-finding mission. I ate what I “normally” ate, the only difference being I logged it in the app. Every bite.
I have logged into MyFitnessPal for 660 days in a row. That’s 1 year, 9 months, and 19 days.
For the uninitiated, MyFitnessPal is a free app that tracks daily food intake. It’s more than just a calorie counter. It tracks fat, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin c, iron, potassium, and several other key nutrients. It is a crowd-sourced program, with every food you can imagine already entered into the database. Just search and select the appropriate entry from the huge list of results. If by chance you have a food that isn’t already in the system, you can add it yourself. You can even enter the ingredients for your own recipes, and it will calculate all the calorie and nutrient details per serving. These are just a few features of this awesome program; I will get into more detail in the next two episodes of this series.
Like so many other aspects of weight loss, I had ridden the food tracking merry-go-round many times. I would commit to keeping a food journal, determined to write down every single thing I ate. I would stick with it for a few days, a few weeks, maybe even a few months. But eventually I grew weary of keeping up with it, and yet another journal bit the dust. Every time.
Sometimes on leg day, I feel like I’m going to die. But so far, I have lived to tell the tale each time.
The key word is “feel.” My feelings are not facts. Just because I feel like I am going to die doesn’t mean that I am in fact dying.
I once heard someone I greatly admire say, “My feelings are real, but they are not reality.” I totally missed that memo. I have lived a good chunk of my life ruled by my feelings. If I felt something, that meant it was true, and I had to react to it.
I’m also someone who has dealt with anxiety and panic. When it comes to the “fight or flight” instinct, I’m pretty much all about flight. When something is uncomfortable, or scary, or overwhelming, my first instinct is to run from it as fast as I can. It feels like I can’t handle it. It feels like I won’t make it through. It feels like I am going to die.
Human beings are animals. Eating is one of our most basic survival instincts. The urge to find and consume food is hard-wired into the most ancient part of our brains. Without food, we die.
So why can’t anyone decide what to eat?
I see it everyday when I go to work at Trader Joe’s. People come through the door, sometimes armed with books and web printouts, totally confused. They’ve heard that gluten is bad, but they don’t know what it is (I’ve been asked for gluten free cheese more than once). Dr. Oz says olive oil popcorn is a healthy snack, so they fill their carts with it and eat a bag in a sitting. Because it’s “good for them.” A friend told them cherry juice helps arthritis, so they buy it by the case and drink tall glasses daily, pumping massive quantities of sugar into their bodies. Bags of frozen spinach are labeled “fat-free” because we have been told for years that fat is evil. Doesn’t matter that it’s spinach, which of course has no fat. Put the buzzword on the bag to get people to buy.Continue reading “What’s for Lunch?”→
Substitutes get a bad name. When I was a kid, there was a substitute teacher at my elementary school that all the kids hated. Her name was Mrs. Smith, but everyone called her Mrs. Fishlips. Because, well, she was quite unattractive and had a mouth that closely resembled a fish. Sometimes the material presents itself.
I was terrified of Mrs. Fishlips. She was mean, and she yelled. Whenever I walked into my classroom and saw her, I was instantly sick with anxiety. Physically ill, and on the verge of tears until the clock mercifully struck 3:30.
I didn’t want Mrs. Fishlips. I wanted my teacher. She was a poor substitute for the real thing.
Something to know about me: I’m a crier. Always have been. I cry when I’m sad, angry, happy, you name it. A giant reservoir of tears lurks just below my eyeballs, ready to burst forth at any moment for any reason. This trait has not always served me well, but I’ve accepted it as part of who I am. I’m a history geek, I love the Foo Fighters, I find all things fat-free repulsive, I cry. It’s part of the package.
I hit a new level with my crying after five months training with Matt at Ludus Magnus.
I cried over situps. Genuine, heart-felt tears of joy. Over situps.
I work at Trader Joe’s. This May will be 10 years. For the uninitiated, Trader Joe’s is a unique grocery store. Most of our products are our own Trader Joe’s brand, and any item with a Trader Joe’s label is free of artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, and GMOs. We also carry a wide variety of organic items. And unlike Whole Foods and the “natural” aisle of chains like Kroger and Giant Eagle, our prices are fantastic. We tend to attract health-conscious consumers, or at least people who are trying to “get healthy” (even if they sometimes don’t exactly know what that means).
Every January 2nd at Trader Joe’s is the same.
People assume we aren’t that busy because the holidays are finally over. Those people are wrong. We are busy. Crazy busy. Absolutely swamped.