Physical, Reflections

We’re Not Kids Anymore

Remember the times waiting for someone to tell you what to do as a kid — when you didn’t have to think about much and when you needed permission for, well, everything? Time to go to class/practice. Recess is in an hour. You can have X so long as you do Y.

That’s what the poster at the gym reminded me of. It reads: “Lose 15 pounds in time for summer.” In response I thought, It’s a bit late to start now. What a marketing gimmick. Spring and summer is when gyms around here see significant drops in attendance, so it’s common to see classes be dropped until the fall. It’s probably why they offer discounts for joining around this time of the year, second to the push to join on new year’s day (resolutions anyone?).

Summer starts on June 21, which technically means that people will need to lose about 7-8 pounds per month for the next 2 months. In comparison, I’ve been working at Biggest Loser for the past three months (since February), and I’m down 14.5 lbs as of last week — granted midway I realized that eating more to train more and run a half marathon garnered me a net weight of 0 for several weeks. I suppose it’s doable if you’re focused enough, as it’s definitely not for the meek.

So what do we do now? Take charge.

If you don’t like how goals conveniently based on someone else’s calendar pops up,  take the wheel. Look at the big picture, jot down any particular milestones (e.g. attending college reunion), and begin with the end in mind and work your way back. Personally, if I wanted to be fit for the summer, I’d set a calendar reminder to start in February with a goal like walk 10 miles every week as a primer.

Importantly, just because you might be late, it doesn’t mean you can’t start right now. There is indeed wisdom in this Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

I’m over it.

I’m psyched that I’ll be done with Biggest Loser at work this week. When my team went out to lunch at Red Robin last week, I was mindful about the weigh-in at the end of the day so I ordered a $5 dollar house salad. And it was sad…

sad but true
approximately 5-in plate of salad

With tip, I paid $6 for maybe a quarter of a bag (or even less?) of a ready-made salad you can find at the supermarket. The salad looks big on the plate because the plate itself was so small. This is why the design of Biggest Loser is lamentable.

Nevertheless, I made it to the end, in some respects due to sheer luck that my team pulled through when I was at the bottom of the pack. And it so happens that my team was able to pull through and eliminate everyone on the other team. Go team? For a team that goes mum between weigh-in’s unless there’s a challenge encouraging us to chat, it felt more like an individual challenge. That is, even though it’s us against the other team, it’s also me against my own team. Maybe the lesson here is to not analyze Biggest Loser too much.

The end… or is it?

As Biggest Loser wraps up, I stumbled upon another 30 day fitness challenge through Fit With Nina and it starts on May 1. The goal is to stay active and eat healthy based on the point system:

1pt = 5000 steps
2pt = 10000 steps
3pt = 15000 steps
3pt = workout
2pt = recipe share
5pt = post workout video

I hope this helps me stay accountable and maintain my weight.

Yum, yum, yum

If there’s anything I got out of this experience with Biggest Loser, it’s all about my newfound love of foods:

  • feta in salads
  • kale after being massaged
  • walnuts
  • kimchi fried rice
  • european cucumbers and hummus
  • raw carrots
  • congee
  • homemade burgers (lettuce, tomatoes, mushroom, swiss cheese)
  • sweet potato fries
  • roasted beets
  • seaweed
  • boiled eggs
  • brussels sprouts
  • raw cauliflower with dressing
  • sauteed red and green cabbage

The list goes on. Now onward to the next challenge!

A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.
— Karen Lamb




I Am Flawsome

Flawsome (adj). Something that is totally awesome, but not without it’s flaws.

When it comes to fitness, you’ll need the prep both physically and mentally. Focusing on one side and not the other will lead to an imbalance, causing one side to compensate for the other. I’m going down the path, taking one step at a time, but I’m limping at the last leg of the journey so to speak.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Thank goodness I only have one more month to go for the Biggest Loser. It’s not about the time I’ve put in to exercise, research the topic, and discover tips and recipes. It’s about thinking about my weight more than I need to, feeling guilty snacking on jumbo pretzel sticks, and blocking out the times when I’ve depleted my willpower (I’m eating coconut rice as we speak).

Simply put, Biggest Loser made me vain. 

So I did something about that.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

What are the first words that come to mind when it comes to the body? Your body?

Flexible, hurt, and sometimes angry are mine. My body is capable of a lot still, and performing traditional Chinese dance (when no one’s around) reminds me of how graceful and elongated my body can be. At the same time, I’m struggling to do a proper lunge. I may need to hire a personal trainer to do some corrective exercises… or I might figure it out myself, being the aspiring physical therapist that I’ve dreamed of. And angry because my stomach tends to yell at me when I mindlessly what I eat. Like the coconut rice I had earlier? It’ll be the first and last time I make it. (Cue G.I. Joe’s theme)

As if some higher power read my mind, I received an invitation to watch a documentary called Embrace, part of the Body Image Movement. One major point is that many women have issues with their body, even the women competing in body building (one might argue that others envy what they have), and society fuels this sentiment. Think about it: What message do we really want to send? To ourselves? To our next generation?

Choose to embrace your body.

The biggest takeaway from the Q & A afterwards was to practice loving your body by complimenting and motivating yourself. For example:

  • You crushed it at the gym tonight. I can tell you’re a bit tired, so rest and relax tonight. Think about all the toxins you sweated out — you’ll be chipper tomorrow, that’s for sure.
  • Thank you for always pulling through. It’s hard to know what you’re capable of. If we work together, we’ll find an answer. Afterwards, let’s continue to refine it.
  • Do you see what I see? A gorgeous body, that’s what. I love you so much.

My body is my friend, and I plan to keep it this way.

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.
— Amy Bloom

Failure, Physical

No Need to Panic (Anymore)

I hit the panic button and didn’t reset it for the past few weeks. So what happened?

I had started out the week with a half marathon in early March, in 35 degree weather, in 25 mph winds, along a beach in Rhode Island. The winds were howling down at Misquamicut, to the extent that the race organizers were unable to put up the finish line arch or any standup signage/mile markers. My coworker was worried sick about me and exclaimed (at least my take on it) that I was dead. Given that I received whiplashes of frostbite and went into a deep sleep the next day, he was half-right. More to come about the Ocean’s Run half in another post.

When I gathered enough strength to do more than lounge about the house, I devoured one of my favorite breads, Trader Joe’s cranberry pecan pull aparts. All six in one sitting, and yet I still wanted more. My next craving turned into bowlfuls of American chop suey, simply because it was available. My ravenous streak continued with eating a family size bag of Utz sour cream chips — in one sitting, after dinner. It struck again earlier this week when I ate half a loaf of bread with multiple spreads of délice de Bourgogne (creamy brie cheese!).

Of course, all the while I have been exercising. My net weight loss in the past three weeks is about 0-1lb. Surprised? So was I.

In part, it’s because my meals lately have been vegetarian or even vegan. Aside from the chop suey, I might’ve eaten three slices of leftover pork chop or a bite of beef pot roast while I was cooking. During St. Patrick’s week, cabbage was ridiculously cheap. On my own, I had 5 heads of cabbage in a week and a half. My dinner could’ve consisted of 2/3 of a cabbage and three eggs, and I’d be satiated for a while. If anything came out of these past few weeks, it’s that I’ve added (red) cabbage to my eating repertoire.

TMI – The Unintended Effect of Too Much Information

Sometimes my eating episodes are triggered due to knowing information. With gadgets like the fitbit automatically tracking our activity and information at our fingertips via Google, it’s become easier to reason with ourselves. Thankfully, I don’t have any such gadget and only use Google Fit for tracking. Weighing myself at the gym has become addictive, but in a bad way. I’ll look at the scale, see numbers I haven’t seen in… ever, and then reason that I could make an exception (with eating aforementioned extras) here and there.

I’m not a calorie counter per se, but I do become curious about the foods I eat. Having rarely eaten cabbage before, I took a look at the nutrition facts and found that cabbage doesn’t have much in terms of calories. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised, considering this applies to most leafy greens. What ends up happening, though, is that I say to myself that I can eat more.

To address these scenarios, perhaps what I need to do is ask myself a simple question: Am I really hungry?

Forget reasoning. I need to come back to the purpose, to the why.

Looking Ahead

I wasn’t kidding when I said from here on out that it’s mind over matter. In the past decade and more, my weight has never dipped to the low 120s. Maybe subconsciously my body’s fighting back. Whatever it is, I know it’ll continue to be an uphill battle. My only solace is that I’ve reset the panic button.

Today is another day. There’s another week to look forward to. Let’s make the best of it—

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
—Winston Churchill

Exercise Philosophy, Physical

Making Excuses Burns Zero Calories

There’s a meme for it, and there’s a reason.

My quest to win Biggest Loser at work is still ongoing, and I’ve noticeably stalled lately. That is, I barely lost a quarter of a pound last week and was expecting to be eliminated. I worked out every single day, and sometimes twice a day. By the same token, unlike the first few weeks, I was also eating after every physical activity to recover (and add to a team challenge about showing what you’re eating) — whether I needed it or not is a different story.

My overall philosophy is: eat to trainGiven my latest goal, I will need to temporarily tweak this. It makes sense in retrospect, so here’s my pivot point.

It’s Not About Diet And Exercise

So how am I magically shedding weight to begin with? I have a purpose.

Diet is a code word for meals with restrictions in some form or other. Exercise is an activity many people are not super enthusiastic about. Instead, I eat foods to fuel my muscles, and I train to build muscles so that I can remain active in the future. If I’m presented with food that I know won’t be good for my body, I can refer back to the goal to make an adjustment or even refuse. If I don’t find myself being active, I pull up Pharrell Williams’ Happy via Just Dance on youtube and dance (or maybe flail…) along. There’s nothing like ending the day on a happy note.

Believe it or not, I still indulge on things like four pieces of Trader Joe’s cranberry pecan pull apart’s. I take it as my body’s reaction to the more mindful eating that’s happening lately. The next step would be to acknowledge my body’s reaction and then let it pass. In the words of a previous supervisor I had, “This too shall pass.” Baby steps.

Weight Is A Series of Decisions, Not A Number

I was listening to the audiobook for Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh, and in a nutshell it focuses on the questions of where and why you eat. Decluttering your spaces like the kitchen and pantry will in turn help declutter your relationship with food. What he also emphasized was that weight shouldn’t be our focus, as weight carries with it underlying habits and allows us to berate ourselves for our imperfections. Barring genetics and our bodies’ physiology, weight is the culmination of the decisions we make daily.

For example, I bought chips and salsa for a party I thought I’d host but ended up not having enough time off to do so (I work on weekends). Now they’re sitting on a table that I pass by often, and it whittles down my willpower ever so slightly. By placing it in an unseen area, it’ll help, but it’s honestly still clutter. At this time, my resolve is to bring it to my work’s veggietecher meeting where people bring their vegetarian dishes to share. And there we go again — purpose. If everything had a clear purpose to it, wouldn’t we have less? In any case, the chips and salsa won’t be there for long, but it goes to show that a decision made in the past can influence the present.

By the way, he also agrees that there’s no set diet or exercise plan.

So What’s Your New Philosophy?

It’s: mind over matter.

I’m going to turn I think I can to I know I can. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for.

What’s your philosophy?

People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.
— J. Michael Straczynski

Exercise Philosophy, Physical

Can slow and steady win the race?

It depends on the rules of the race and whether you’re set on winning at this one moment — this one race.

We started the Biggest Loser at work, and in 3 weeks I’ve lost 8 lbs so I’m back at my post-vacation weight. I’d like to think, though, that I lost 9 lbs because I’ve gained 1 lb in muscle. The burpee half mile was a first, and it was stupendous and stupid (because I could’ve hurt myself due to no preparation).

I’ve started off on a good note with the first battle, but here’s where the war starts. And there are a few wars going on here:

Although there’s no I in TEAM, there’s ME.

My team of 7 went from 1380 lbs total to 1356, with a difference of 24. Two people ended up not losing any weight. Knowing the percentage total weight loss of everyone and using basic math, I can deduct that my remaining four teammates lost between 2-7 lbs. It’s decent, but we lost.

Teams are great if everyone is invested in the process and sees the big picture. To be clear, I’m not laying blame on anyone. After all, we were grouped randomly and not everyone enjoys receiving texts from a coach telling them to do things (even I didn’t do what my coach encouraged us to do because I like doing my own thing). Additionally, we all have our own reasons for joining: to commit to being fit, to lose weight, to meet others and/or get to know them outside of work, to support a fellow friend (because our entry fee was donated to someone in need).

If I really wanted to win this race, I would’ve maintained my weight after working hard the first week (not knowing that the first week wouldn’t be an elimination week). Reason being, I can only lose so much weight in three months, and I’d be betting that someone on my team lost less weight percentage-wise. Of everyone who’s participating, I’ve been led to believe that I weigh the least. So if I lose the same number of lbs as someone else, I would’ve lost more weight percentage-wise. And since I’d be maintaining my weight, no one would have thought much about it. But I’d know. I’d know that I was only in this to win it, and I’d know that I wasn’t building lasting habits to sustain my weight loss.

Even if integrity and healthy habits weren’t the bottomline issue, it’s disturbing to hear how Biggest Loser participants who lose a lot of weight end up regaining their pounds after the show. There was even a NY Times article about how the body fights back against weight loss.

In any case, if I’m doing this for me, I’m going to do it in a way so that I can look back and be proud of what I’ve done.

So why did we lose the team battle?

In part, team psychology likely had to do with it. We had been provided the results of our second week into this, and my team was winning. Maybe we rested on our laurels. Maybe we trusted each other too much. Maybe the opposing team captain riled up his team (I can’t think of a reason why he wouldn’t). My guess is that if the results weren’t made available, my team would’ve won. Information is powerful, and we can see in TED talks that how we present information is key.

Or, I’m going to be honest here, it could be that I have a weak team captain. Even though we lost the team battle, I have yet to see a comeback let’s-get-our-game-face-on message, or any message at all. We’ll see what happens at the next weigh-in for elimination this week.

What happens after being eliminated?

The whole point of grouping us in teams is to encourage camaraderie and to motivate one another. Furthermore, I feel accountable to my team. But what if I’m eliminated?

Personally, I don’t like eliminations. It’s like going through the scenario where you “failed” and are now facing the consequence for what’s likely a minor setback in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, can it provide enough of a reason to reflect and make changes? I guess that depends on the person.

For the person who’s been eliminated from my team, or potentially even for me, I’d still want the team companionship. So I’m spearheading weekly challenges. This week’s focus is squats.

On Making Exercise a Habit — Slowly but Surely

Other than being excited to take a variety of fitness classes included with my gym membership (and is the main reason I joined a gym), I wanted a way to exercise without using the gym — especially on days when I oversleep or don’t feel like going to the gym. Here are a few ways I’ve come up with so far (check and check for today):

1.) Get up and moving with Just Dance

I’ve done this to warm up when it’s cold in the house, or when I need a pick me up in the morning. I don’t look nearly as good as the person on the screen, but at least I dance like no one’s watching.

2.) Trigger an automatic response to a location or action

I’m in the kitchen a lot because it’s in the middle of where I need to go and because I like eating. So I’m trying out a rule for this week’s challenge: if I’m in front of the refrigerator, I’m going to do 10 squats.

I’m also going to work on strengthening my wrist and forearms while reading. Why not, since I can have a hand or two free? This will help me with burpees later.

Back to the Bigger Question

Rather than asking, “Can slow and steady win the race?”, maybe we need to be asking ourselves, “Who do I want to become?” A shero to whom others (including myself) can look up  and relate.

A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it.
—Frederick Douglass


In Search of Motivation

At this time I’m focused on losing weight for the Biggest Loser competition happening at work. Since being eliminated means that we would lose our coach, I suggested having weekly challenges so that there’s something else to look forward to after being eliminated. This week is burpee week.

I searched for ways to get psyched about burpees, and the most popular phrases were:

When life knocks you down… do a burpee!!!
Keep strong and burpee on
Burpees don’t really like you either
“Those were some enjoyable burpees!” said no one ever.

Let’s just say there isn’t much out there (or prove me wrong. I’d love that — really!). Nevertheless, something special came out of this search: the burpee half marathon. Who knew?

While it’s not really a new concept, as there are some crossfit and spartan videos and even videos with college athletic teams out there, it’s new to me and that’s what counts. That’s in part because I now have a lofty yet attainable, I’m sure, goal. Can I do a burpee mile? And how many burpees will that take? Rest assured, I will have answers… later.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
—Jim Ryun

Physical, Quests

You’ve Got Nothing But Bones on You… Seriously?

I joined the biggest loser at work because, well… I wanted to be healthier, and I wanted to win. When I tell others, they let me in on a huge secret, “You don’t have much to lose, you know?” Really? #thisis2017

Back in Hong Kong, I’d be considered fat. Not overweight, because that would have health implications. But fat — simply calling it what it is. Being thin or fat is relative. What’s more important here is that I want to be fit, and here’s a way to be accountable to both myself and to others.

Other than the two races I ran last month, I’ve led a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I might’ve made it to some fitness classes (late) for 30-40 minutes every so often, but I’m back to my typical weight hovering over 130 lbs. Back in the fall when I took a 2 week vacation, I was down to 124 lbs by simply walking everywhere all the while eating out — even at two all- you-can-eat places. At the very least, I know that I can lose 6+ lbs .

In the first week, I lost 5 lbs already, but it really took a lot. I logged about 25 miles of jogging and cycling, but mostly jogging. I also spent 2.5 hours shoveling snow and took maybe around 5 fitness classes. I had two delicious burgers for lunch and dinner along the way, and now edamame is my new go-to snack. Some might chalk it up to me being younger, but I really worked for it.

I know I won’t lose as many pounds this week since I’ve been less active, relatively anyway, yet I still want to make a good showing. I took tabata cardio today sweated like the athletes in a Gatorade commercial. I also rediscovered my love of feta and can’t wait to make this kale salad.

If I can’t lose weight every week, I’m aiming for the perseverance award, which is given to the person with largest difference in body weight % from beginning to the end. My goal is to lose about 20 lbs more by the end of three months, back to the time before I intentionally gained my freshman 15. That’s a story in itself.

And hey, who cares if I don’t win anything? So long as I made a concerted effort and did my best, getting back in shape is worth it. After all, a shero is someone who’s fit and not necessarily thin or light.

“Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.”
—Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love