Friday, August 31, 2012

Positive People

Right after I published my last post I read someone's blog who wrote that they had fallen off the wagon AGAIN. Another stop at another fast food joint and not only are the person's life problems still the same, now there's an additional 1,500 calories of toxic shit floating around in the person's stomach. I've left several encouraging comments in the past, but with each setback, it has become harder. I can't bring myself to write - What the fuck. Stop acting like an undisciplined child who has no sense! - I just can't. If you're not accountable to yourself, then what good is a stranger reprimanding you for eating shit going to do? Nothing.

So after months and months of reading about this person finding a deep resolve to lose weight and then soon after finding comfort in a bucket of fried chicken, I have decided that the blog will join the others in the trash as reading those types of entries is bad energy as far as I'm concerned. I want to surround myself with positive people who are trying hard on a daily basis to fight this condition. They take it seriously. They are demonstrating determination and discipline. They are actually going through the process without finding excuses for failure or knowingly sabotaging their efforts with the 'one can't hurt' mentality (because it's never really just one with a food addict).

I've had many setbacks. Obviously, or I wouldn't still be overweight, but I'm heading in the right direction and the last thing I need is negative, pessimistic energy around me.

I haven't worked out in a week now and I am going insane and driving D insane too. I just trying to hold on until tomorrow. If I can take deep, deep breaths tomorrow without feeling any tightness in my chest at all, then I'll do something - anything!! At the moment, I'm just trying to ignore the fact that yet another day as gone without a workout because all I keep thinking is - I've lost muscle, I've lost strength, I've gained weight, all that work, down the drain --- dramatic, yes, but it's my drama and my current state of mind.

To make things worse, last night I was in excruciating pain from my fibroids [new post on my health issues here]. It was the worst I felt in a long time. We almost went to the hospital, but I just breathed through it - not easy with bronchitis! Today the pain is not as bad but it's been more frequent all day. I wonder why it's happening now. I wonder if the lack of activity plus the contractions from the coughing is affecting me internally somehow. I just want it all to go away.

Ok, enough with the complaining. Got some grilled veggies and soup on the menu for tonight. I just want a good night's sleep and to feel strong and ready to workout tomorrow.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Restless is actually an understatement.

I've been so cranky about not working out. It's my last few days of holiday before the academic year will begin. I envisioned myself working out, going for swims, and doing nothing but healthy, active stuff before the craziness of lesson planning, teaching, advising, and marking began ... blah. This sucks.

So nothing too exciting going on over here. I'm just taking the time to get organized - working on my menus, especially as the Whole Life Challenge approaches, my schedule for both work and my workouts, and of course straightening up my house.

Lots of de-cluttering going on here and it feels great. Part of it has also been to de-clutter my bookmarked blogs. I've got 4 tabs with different blog lists. My first list of blogs hadn't been checked for a while so I decided to go back to that list and see what was up. Out of the 50 blogs listed, within this past year 4 had been deleted, 22 had gained weight (8 of who had gained over 50 lbs), and 10 had not blogged in the past 3 months, 8 were at about the same weight doing nothing new, and 6 had been steadily losing weight.

Focusing on the ones who had gained weight would be useless and uninspiring. Words like too difficult, impossible, too busy, not enough money kept popping up. I decided to delete those. Actually, I deleted all the blogs off my reading list except for the 6 that had lost weight. What I noticed in their blogs were words like:

  • determined
  • keep trying
  • exercising
  • progressing
  • positive
  • sticking with the plan

Totally different in attitude and tone. Those are the ones who are really motivating and make me feel like - Yes, this may be going slowly for me, but it's still moving in the right direction.

At the same time I thought - Ok, I need to really get moving on this weight loss thing. Losing 18 lbs. over the past six months is not that much especially for how much I've been working out. I know I put in the hours at the gym, but I what I need to focus on is what I'm putting in my mouth!

The Whole Life Challenge begins on the 15th of September. That doesn't mean that it's binge galore until then. In fact, I've been trying to slowly cut things out of my diet just so it doesn't come as a shock to give everything up all at once. I need to be more vigilant about my food NOW. Why wait until the 15th to start to feel better about what's going in my body?

I'm definitely a planner and I like to have things organized before I get started - while it's incredibly helpful having menus and grocery lists mapped out, what's really important is to JUST DO IT! That's where I'm at right now -- trying to stay focused and hope that my inactivity does not lead to an additional pounds.

Some reminders:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bean and Shrimp Salad

This recipe was adopted from a recipe I saw in The Men's Health Big Book of Food. The original recipe said that it made 4 servings. However, I found the servings to be huge, so I've divided the nutritional info into 6 servings, which is what I ended up serving. Even the smaller serving was filling enough. No added sides necessary. The leftovers the next day tasted just as good. The combination of flavors is great!

Hot Pepper Dressing 
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime - squeeze out juice
2 jalapeno chilis, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

1 can (15.5 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lime - juiced
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder

2 cups frozen corn, thawed 1-2 min
1 red bell pepper
1 avocado, diced
8 cups mixed lettuce/spinach leaves

1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined
2. Let it sit for 10 minutes before mixing into the salad

1. Drain liquid from the can of beans and lightly rinse before putting into a bowl and mixing in the cumin, salt, and pepper. Let the mixture marinate while preparing the rest of the salad.
2. Toss the shrimp with the lime juice, olive oil, and chili powder. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired. Let combination sit as the grill pan heats. When the grill is hot, grill the shrimp until opaque, about 4 minutes each side.
3. Add the corn, red pepper, avocado, and mixed lettuce leaves to the bowl with the beans and toss.
4. Divide the salad among 6 bowls, top each with the grilled shrimp, and serve.

Nutritional info: (calories per serving/recipe serves 6)
Salad + Dressing
484 calories
22.8 g. protein
28.7 g. carbohydrates (9 g. fiber)
12 g. fat (2.7 g. saturated fat)

Salad only
385 calories
22.7 g. protein
28 g. carbohydrate (9 g. fiber)
12 g. fat (1.1 g. saturated fat)

Dressing only
99 calories
0.1 g. protein
0.7 g. carbohydrates (0.2 fiber)
11.3 g. fat (1.6 g. saturated fat)

For more recipes, click here

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Under a Fog

I have not been myself today.

I don't know if it's the lack of sleep, the bronchitis, the antibiotics, or the lack of working out for the past 4 days (that makes me cringe) - all of which are related to one another - but I am just not myself.

I couldn't take the choking cough anymore so I ended up going to the hospital last night. I understand that doctor appointments sometimes take longer than planned so patients have to wait, but that's why I scheduled my appointment to be the first of the day. No waiting, right? Wrong! The doctor arrived to work 40 minutes after my appointment was due to start. I was fuming. I knew exactly what I had, my annual bout of bronchitis, but no doctor wants to hear that the patient knows her diagnosis so I refrained from sharing. Two hours, two x-rays, a spirometry test, and antibiotics + antihistamines later, I was home.

I hate taking meds, so I know that is contributing to both my funk and my lack of sleep.

No cardio/strenuous workouts for me for a week. That in itself feels like torture.

This morning I sat down to plan my week's menu. My mind went blank. I couldn't decide what to cook at all. Nothing. No ideas. Even old recipes were uninspiring. So I gave up.

I went to the bank to take care of some work where I was tortured by the most incompetent bank employee who didn't know that the currency of England was the British Pound and that it was part of the United Kingdom. I'm not sure how I managed to leave the bank without strangling her, but I resisted. I don't like using the word stupid, but she was indeed STUPID.

I headed to the grocery store with no menu in mind and no list in hand. I never do that. WTF? My mind was just in a fog.

Nothing else to do but stock up on protein - meat and chicken for D, shrimps and fish for me, plus lots of veggies and some Greek yogurt. No brainer really. No junk food in the house means there's no junk food to eat.

I really wanted to go to the gym, even if it was just to walk, but seeing how winded I felt just carrying all the groceries up the stairs, I though I best listen to the doctor for now. I don't want a setback before I've even really started to recovery.

So I was restless at home for the rest of the day. I decided to de-clutter which always makes me feel better, though until the task is complete I do feel a bit anxious. Slowly but surely I'm making my way through the mounds and mounds of all the papers collected over the past 4.5 years of my PhD research.

I'm hoping that tomorrow the fog will have lifted and I'll be more like myself.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Khartoon Ohan

I had a lot of things I wanted to post about today, but then I came across this article about a friend of mine from college. Over the past few years she's been an inspiration as she took on the task to learn how to swim and worked her way to doing triathlons and most recently her first Ironman.

One of the main things that struck me was her - go get'em attitude. She had a goal and just went for it. No hesitation. No fear of hard work. Just go for it and try your best.

I know that I have many fears and insecurities, not just about fitness but about other things in life. I've found over the past few months, as I've been getting stronger, lifting heavier weights, and running a little longer (not faster yet), that the less time I give myself to build any self-doubt, the more likely I am to get out there and tackle my task. More often than not, I come away with a success story.

Following Khartoon's practices and races as well as reading about her victories keeps inspiring me to lace up my running shoes and get out there. After all, I can't get to where I want to be just sitting at home!

Had to give her a shout out! She is a huge inspiration of mine!

Six Figures: Khartoon Ohan says, “Just do it”

The native New Yorker, Khartoon Ohan, knew she liked to push herself to the limits since she was 6-years-old. She says her mom took her to The Julliard School to take ballet lessons with “evil Russian ballet masters,” and while most kids were intimidated, Ohan loved the terrifying experience. Until this day, she says what made her get ahead in life was the fact she dives head first into whatever challenges or scares her.
At 34, after more than a decade in the advertising field, she is now the vice president of integrated media for Clear Channel Connections. Ohan says one of the things she enjoys most is the diversity her job provides such as, the people and businesses she gets to work with, from entertainment to technology.
She got her start in the media world during her time studying psychology and marketing at theUniversity of Rochester, where she and other minority students started a publication called “The Messenger,” which had a multi-cultural focus.
“I was always fascinated by people – mind and body,” says Ohan.
The physically-toned triathlete says she didn’t get ahead in her career by dancing the corporate two-step.
“Just be as confident as possible, and do good quality work,” she says in her matter-of-fact way. “I figure if I do the work, I am bullet-proof.”
Ohan’s strong exterior matches her mindset. She says for years she was often the only woman, and only person of color during board meetings. She remembers her parents used to always tell her, “You could do anything you want,” but she says she didn’t really understand, or own that, until she turned 30.
“At 30, I jumped in a pool, and I learned how to swim,” says Ohan. “I got hooked and I’m doing triathalons…I’m still scared of the water, but I can swim for miles.”
Ohan works hard, and she also plays hard. She says she tries to fit in everything that’s important to her in about 20 hours, each day. She even completed a half Iron Man a few days ago.
“My day starts at 5am training, then work, and at night I absolutely make time to see my friends and family,” says Ohan who likes to have dinner with her mom and then drinks with her friends. “I think I can have it all – so I squeeze it into one day.”
Ohan says when she worked at her last advertising agency, she started a program where she recruited and mentored college students to help them get into the advertising and media industry.
“I looked for the best, most passionate talented [students], and groomed them to think, behave, and thrive in the advertising community,” she says. “That was four years ago, and I recruited 15 students from around the country.  Today, I mentor each and every one of them still, and added another six to the group. I feel like a mother hen and love and connect with them often.”
She plans on getting married and having her own children one day. The energetic career woman says, that is a given. But in the meantime, she enjoys traveling outside of New York City whenever she can, and looking for her next challenge – like the NYC marathon in November. Ohan says she wants to infect others with the same sense of adventure.
“I have to do what I don’t think I’m going to do, and go for that,” she says.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Things I've Learned and SSSDC Week 12 Update

I got back home yesterday. My throat had been a bit sore the day before and it wasn't feeling any better. By late afternoon, I felt it move down to my chest and I thought - oh no, bronchitis. I have suffered from chronic bronchitis but have been lucky not to have an attack in almost two years. The suffocating cough that accompanies it is terrible. I felt like shit.

Having slept only 2 hours in the past day and a half, I decided to go to bed early. I took a huge dose of NyQuil, put on my sweatpants, turtleneck, sweater, and socks + a hot water bottle (imagine, all this while it's still summer in Kuwait!) and got into bed.

I slept for 10 hours!

I woke up, had something to eat and took some medicine then went back to bed and slept for another 4 hours.

That NyQuil stuff really does knock me out.

I'm feeling much better today. I haven't coughed as much but it's still lurking around in my chest. I just want to get over it so that I can get back into my routine. I think my body has had enough of the traveling and jumping from one time zone to another.


So, I weighed myself this morning and was happy to find that I weighed the same as when I left. Given my eating, I'm definitely pleased. I hope that I feel better tomorrow so that I can go to the gym, even if it's just to walk for half an hour or so.

This week's SSSD Challenge goal was to surpass our fitness/weight goals from week 10.

I haven't been setting any specific goals for each week, especially setting a number to lose each week (e.g. drop 2 lbs each week) because I have found that to be discouraging. Plus, I've really been focusing more on making changes that I'm going to continue forever, not just for the duration of a week or a challenge.

In terms of that goal, I think I've been very successful.

All the travel that I did over the past three months has really put me to the test, and I think I've passed.

Anything that interferes with my routine - even something like a meeting at work running late and crossing over into my lunch hour - makes me crazy. I've been so obsessive about my routine that I think it has actually been counter-productive. What I've learned is that there's never a perfect time when everything will go according to plan, and if it does happen, then it's an exception.

Once I accepted that the majority of my life will be filled with things that I cannot control, I started to feel more relaxed. I started to understand that the changes I need to make in my life in order to adopt a healthy lifestyle need to deal with reality and not ideal circumstances. This means learning how to cope when I'm in the middle of writing an article, grading papers, busy running errands so I can't make it to the gym, I've fallen sick, or I'm traveling. Things happen. They happen ALL the time.

I haven't perfected it yet (not sure if I ever will), but I'm getting closer.

I'm happy that I've reached the point where packing my gym clothes when going on vacation isn't a waste of space but actually something that I'll use (and enjoy).

My workouts are not a chore, rather they're a challenge. The satisfaction I feel with each accomplishment surpasses any feeling that a piece of chocolate could ever bring me.

Eating good food makes me feel GOOD. I have no urge to eat out at restaurants. I know that preparing something at home takes time and effort. I used to hate making salads because of all the chopping etc. and then one day I timed myself. How long will it take me to prepare some lettuce, chop some tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocado, and add some tuna and black beans? Add some balsamic vinegar and less than 20 minutes before the meal is ready. It's delicious and healthy. It would take me more than 20 minutes to drive to any restaurant, park, and order my food - let alone eat it and drive back home. It's all about reframing the concept of time. The excuses are in our head.

Today D came home from work and told me that he had his usual lunch from a diet place that they've got in his office building - it serves low calorie meals but not necessarily healthy meals. He told me that his taste has changed so much and that eating the fresh foods that we've gotten used to at home has made him not enjoy these mass/commercially produced meals. I feel the same. Even though preparing lunches for him at home so that he can take them to work might take some extra time, I know that it is time well spent. What's waking up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to make a healthier meal in the scheme of things? It's probably 15 less minutes at the gym on a daily basis I think!

Whenever I think of the excuse of time I think of Jenn who has 2 kids and a job that keeps her really busy. She wakes up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the gym at 5 and get her workout done before getting on with the rest of her day. That's dedication. That's the foundation of success.

It just goes to show, if you want it, you've got to work for it - be patient and persistent - and success will follow.

I think the turning point for me was having lost 6 lbs after my 2-week trip to Italy. I feel like I learned how to balance my food and activity to a point where nothing felt a chore. I enjoyed myself. I had fun. I watched what I ate without being paranoid. I engaged in activities without exhausting or straining myself. Things just fell into place - it felt good. It gave me a new sense of confidence and dedication in my weight loss journey - 'Yes. I can do this.'

Now I'm back home. I've got a few days before my semester starts and I'll be back to work and a more normal routine. I've got the Whole Life Challenge coming up that I want to do with Jenn and that's going to take a bit of planning (I started planning some menus already on the plane!). Lots of things to do -- so I've just got to get down and do them.

The challenge for week 13 is a low carb eating plan + no eating out. This should be easy for me since I rarely eat out and I've been trying to go low carbs for ages. I need to get back to tracking my food and being more vigilant of what I eat, how much, and when.

It all feels like it's coming together. It's a good feeling ... now I just need to beat this bronchitis!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tales from Home

The last few couple of days in Bangladesh were filled with more invites to dinners/lunches. I was rather relieved that my extended family forgot that I didn't eat chicken or meat because that eliminated about 90% of the foods that were served. I have to admit it was slightly irritating as I stopped eating chicken/meat four years ago - do they not listen? However, it worked out really well in my favor as I got to eat veggies and fish and not veer off 'plan' too much. The two things that I know I had too much of were carbs (mainly bread) and sweets.

One of the lunches was hosted by my father's side of the family. I was totally surprised to walk in to find a big sign with my name on it congratulating me for getting my PhD. It feels like it happened such a long time ago! I was so touched as everyone was really happy and proud that I was the first female to get a PhD on that side of the family. They even engraved a statue that also mentioned my grandparents who passed away many years ago but with whom I was very close. It was really sweet.

Another huge highlight of my trip was meeting up with a friend who I had not seen in 20 years!! During the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait I was stuck in Bangladesh (I wrote about the experience here) and Nadia (half Irish, half Bangladeshi) was my first friend. She really made me feel welcome and we developed a strong bond. After leaving Bangladesh and returning to Kuwait we lost touch -- but thankfully through Facebook we reconnected and were able to meet. It was a fantastic reunion and lovely to be able to just sit down and catch up as if not a moment had passed.

Here are a few photos of Dhaka in general. The city was rather empty during this trip as most of the people had gone to their villages to celebrate Eid with their family.

No taxi ranks in Dhaka; we've got Rickshaw Ranks instead ;)

Our National Martyr's Memorial (my grandfather was one):

I was tickled by this billboard featuring Usain Bolt. It says: Congrats ... Being the fastest man on Earth. The billboard is for a property developer (Alien properties - strange name choice). I have no idea how the two are connected. Had to snap a pic :)

Out of my 5 day trip I hit the hotel gym for 3 really good workouts. I don't expect to have lost any weight on this trip, but I do hope that I haven't gained.

Me in my sari on Eid day :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You Look So ...

Older generation Bangladeshis are not known for their tact. They'll have no problem approaching you and telling you to your face that you've put on weight or other criticisms. It's something I dread.

It's something that I've really, really been anxious about prior to my arrival in Dhaka. D knows that it is a major concern of mine because I don't want to feel bad, especially not when I've been working so hard. I know that I've lost weight, but I'm not thin (YET) ... so the last thing that I want to hear from my relatives is that I look fat.

Seriously. It was stressing me out.


I wanted to post yesterday but it was such a busy day.

The day started off perfectly after an incredible 9-hour sleep. I felt like a new person. The Westin has a signature bed called 'The Heavenly Bed' - it is indeed HEAVENLY! I've stayed at several Westin's - Malaysia, Thailand, Toronto, NYC, etc. - their bed never disappoints. I want one in my house!

The main event of yesterday was a massive family gathering for dinner at my parents house. By massive I'm talking about around 70 people - and this was immediate family only :) I knew there would be lots of food at mom's place so D and I headed to the gym for a great workout - cardio + weights before heading over there. The gym trainers must not see a lot of women lifting heavy weights because they had an alarmed expression on their face as I squatted 55 kg. I think they would have had a heart attack if they saw me do my real 75 kg ... but as nice as the hotel gym was, it didn't have that many free weight options. Plus I wasn't really aiming to lift heavy, just work up a good sweat - and I definitely did.

I love that my mom is so aware of my eating habits now. Although there were many, many foods that I would normally have loved to eat (high in calories/fat/fried foods), she also had a number of dishes that were low fat, high protein for me plus lots of veggies. In the end, actually, I hardly ate anything at all because catching up with my relatives took up pretty much all my time.

So how did they react? Well, first of all, D and I were both wearing traditional clothes (me in a sari and him in a long kurta) so that delighted the whole family -- and on top of that, pretty much everybody (all the women at least) came up to me and said -- You look so ... thin! You've lost weight. You look terrific etc. etc. etc.

I haven't lost too much since I was here last year - I think 6 kg (15 lbs.) but I know that my body has definitely changed shape; after all, my clothes are all a smaller size. I know I'm on this mission for myself, but let's face it - you want others to notice how good you look as well. I'm not thin yet, but I know that I look different/better.

I was really happy. D was incredibly sweet telling me that I never had anything to worry about and that I should be proud of the work I've done -- and I am. It's definitely even more motivation to keep on going.


Today has been more of the same.

Breakfast; lounging around; then the gym.

Today I decided to practice some of the Body Pump choreography that I've been trying to learn. I haven't looked at it since I came back from Italy. It was a really good workout, but I definitely need to practice more. I completed 6 tracks, some cardio, and a total of 200 squats.

My ass is quivering lol.

So far things have been good on the food front. My mom has been my biggest advocate, pleading on my behalf that we just want to visit family and enjoy their company versus go to eat - plus saying that both D and I have become really sensitive and can't eat all the rich foods. Bless her. She's my hero!

I love that on vacation D & I get a chance to work out together. It's a change in our routine. Plus we're both being vigilant of what we eat. That doesn't mean that we're on a crazy restrictive diet. We both know that Bangladeshi sweets are really, really good (and really sweet!). I told myself that I'd rather not eat anything else but just have a sweet if it came down to it. I know it's not the healthiest choice, but having one sweet on 3 days once a year is not a big deal in the scheme of things (in my opinion), especially when I'm still exercising (not that I exercise to make room for more food calories). Anyway.

I don't know if that's my inner/outer fat girl speaking and looking for an excuse to eat something sweet -- I know I don't need it, but I do enjoy it ... I guess we'll see how it all plays out once I weigh in when I get home!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Other People's Feelings

"I didn't want to be rude, so I ate."

I've said that many times in the past, actually almost every time I went to someone's house, was invited out for some occasion, or was just with someone who wanted to eat more than I did ... I ate to please them, to keep them company, or just because that was the social occasion called for.

Food is an important part of the social scene here in Bangladesh. Cooking good (rich) food is how people welcome you and express their hospitality ... and if you don't eat, they get insulted. Even if you just taste a little, they get irritated that you didn't eat more - Eat. Eat. Eat. For such a poor country, it's incredible how much of our lives revolve around food.

It stresses me out.

Eid celebrations mainly revovle around food. You visit friends and relatives and you eat at their house. Since it's a celebration, we're not talking some veggies and dip here; we're talking lots and lots of rich, rich food.

Since we've arrived (14 hours ago), we've already received 6 dinner invitations. We're only here for 5 days so that should give you an idea of how much of a dilemma it can be.

I declined all the dinner invites.

I just won't be able to handle it. I know they mean well, but I don't think I can even taste the foods as they'll be really rich and heavy. Everyone in our family, particularly my dad's side, is an amazing cook. In fact, one household (13 brothers and sisters) have their own catering company ... so the food is delicious. I just can't handle it anymore.

I know that people are not happy. I know they want to have D and I over and show us their hospitality. It is out of kindness that they want to entertain us ... but I couldn't accept just for the sake of politeness.

I know it's hard to say no. I've eating out of a false sense of obligation so many times. The thing is, it may please the host, but it won't please me. If I knew that I could get away with just eating a little or sticking to something healthy, then I would go -- but I can't guarantee that.

I'm trying to make it up to them by inviting them over to the hotel I'm staying at to join us for coffee. Then the meeting will really be about seeing each other and spending time together versus eating, eating, and more eating.

It's hard. As I said, I know I've offended people by refusing invites (someone is actually still holding a grudge against me and D for not visiting them 2 1/2 years ago. STILL!! She complained to my mom ...). Still, at some point you've got to make yourself a priority. I've been trying to manage the situation in 1 of 3 ways - either refuse the invite, tell them what I'd like to eat to control the menu/food preparation (with close relatives I can get away with this), or invite them over so that they can order what they want and I can do the same for myself.

I know my last few posts have been about food, but it's been on my mind. All these realizations are relatively new, and I feel like it is SUCH an important part of trying to take my goal of getting healthy to the next level. I just need to keep reiterating the fact that I am in control of what I eat. Nobody else. Eating to please someone else won't do me any favors ... and I'll have to suffer the consequences, not them. I guess this is why surrounding yourself with like-minded/supportive people of your endeavor to lose weight is such an important component --- but that's a topic that can be saved for another post.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Drive

Something has changed. I mean, I've been trying to lose weight and get healthy seriously for the past 3 years, but now something has really changed with my approach, mentality, and action.

D and I were discussing this change over lunch today. When he met me 6 years ago,  I was living in extremes. Extremely happy/extremely sad; completely calm/totally strung out; gorging on unhealthy food/having only a cucumber all day; worst of all, bingeing and purging.

I used to hate food. I was so anxious about eating that I would have a panic attack before eating, while eating, and after eating. I was miserable.

After pretty much hitting rock bottom, I started to change and included exercise in my routine. It was great, but I still hadn't changed the way I was eating, and I definitely still had a terrible relationship with food.

This is where the major change has happened.

The first main step was cleaning up my eating - no junk food. I don't remember the last time we pulled into a fast food joint. I think the worst thing that I eat (once every 2-3 months) is some pizza. Now I have 0 interest in those types of foods. There are still some things that I would have trouble controlling myself around - French fries are probably my biggest weakness accompanied by my hard to control sweet tooth. Still simply dropping fast food out of my diet was a huge help.

That's when I really started to taste food, noticing how fresh, good ingredients tasted so much better than those preservative-packed greasy foods. What a difference it has made to my eating.

I feel very fortunate that I rarely eat out as that seems to be the biggest downfall and struggle of a lot of people who are trying to lose weight. Not to sound boastful, but I just can't think of many restaurants that can deliver as fresh, clean food as good as what I can cook at home.

It takes time and effort though. No doubt about it, but that time commitment is so worth it.

Two days ago D and I ordered in some Arabic food - grilled chicken and fish plus some hummus and other small sides. We couldn't eat it. Even though it wasn't a fully unhealthy meal, the bit that we had eaten made us feel too full and uncomfortable. We threw it out -- that's what led to today's reflection - how much our eating habits have changed.

Now planning my menu, buying the groceries, and prepping/cooking are fun. I enjoy the process, enjoy the taste, and best of all enjoy how I feel.

What a great change.

I'm so excited to take this new enjoyment and learn how to cook better, cleaner, healthier food and really enjoy what I'm eating and how it makes me feel. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Time to Reflect and Change

Today is the last day of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims. Fasting during Ramadan involves not eating or drinking anything (yes, that includes water) from sunrise to sunset.

To most people, this sounds daunting.

I've heard many reactions to fasting - 'It seems impossible.' 'I couldn't do that.' "I'd die without water.'

Indeed, fasting in summer months (for 15 hours) does seem daunting ... but when you set your mind to do something, for whatever reason, then it's amazing how your body can follow.

I fasted. I barely felt hungry or thirsty. I still maintained my workouts. I still ate 3 healthy meals a day/evening/night. The most disruption I got was really with my sleeping hours -- and with all that, I didn't die.

The month of fasting is not just about refraining from food and drink; it's a month to check yourself - check your behavior. In my journey to lose weight and get healthy, this concept is very relevant to my everyday life.

Each day I realize more and more how much I am capable of and it gives me courage. I know that if I put my mind to something, I can do it. There are many tasks that I find daunting - running, lifting heavy weights, and of course burpees!! However, they're not impossible. If I want to improve in these areas, I've got to focus, practice, and keep on trying. Nothing will change overnight, but with persistence, I hope that I can see good results.

I'm not so worried about my exercise, as I really do enjoy all the different activities that I participate in. What I'm more concerned about is food. My eating habits need to really get cleaned up.

When I first read about the Whole Life Challenge, posted by Jenn, I felt intimidated. That was a whole long list of foods that couldn't be eaten during the challenge - no grains? no sugar? not even any sweeteners? Impossible.

No. Not impossible. Challenging - sure - that's why it's called a challenge. It will require me to be vigilant of what I'm eating. It will require me to think before I put anything into my mouth. It will require me to make a conscientious effort to be healthy and eat clean --- and seriously, when I put it that way, why wouldn't I want to partake in this challenge? Shouldn't I be careful anyway?

I know that this is a change I want to make in my life. I've been able to coast so far, very steadily dropping some weight each month ... but how long do I want to coast for? Not anymore. I'm more focused now. I have more specific goals now. I'm definitely more driven, and most importantly I am not (as) afraid.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Bit of Motivation

I've been reading a lot of blog posts about people struggling to stick to the plan and losing the motivation to workout, so for today, I'm just going to share quotes that help keep me motivated.

Remember, this is a change for life, it's not temporary. You've got to be patient and persistent - and work damn hard!

Practice makes perfect -- so keep practicing. Athletes didn't become who they are over night; they worked hard to get to where they are now. Everybody starts somewhere.

Create a sustainable plan and stick to it -- and then don't give up!

Nothing beats the feeling of a good workout!

The best slogan ever - JUST DO IT! 

This last picture is for my CrossFit Coach, Coach Fatma -- it's her mantra :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I didn't get to bed until about 5 a.m. and I was up just before 9. I've had a lot on my mind, in particularly a banking errand that I needed to get done today. From tomorrow the banks will be closed for 5-6 days because of the Eid holidays (marking the end of Ramadan), so I was not the only one who left their banking for today. In fact, I've never seen the bank as crowded as it was today. I counted at least 50 people waiting to be served by the time I got there.

Of course, as with all banking errands, I could not get mine done for various reasons. I even went to two different places to try and get it done ... I was very frustrated, but at the end of it I just thought - Fuck it. It wasn't meant to be. I won't stress over this anymore, because it has indeed been stressing me out.

At home, the sight of all the things my parents have left behind for me to bring with them to Bangladesh has also really been stressing me out. I've been trying to sort through their things. I can't take everything with me without paying major excess luggage charges. More importantly, I don't want to take a lot of the things with me because I think they are absolutely unnecessary. I don't want to ask what I can/can't throw because I know my mom won't want me to throw anything. The clutter is making me feel so anxious. I managed to do a bit of packing, but there's still a lot to do. I know I'll feel better once this stuff is out of sight (and definitely out of the apartment)!!

On top of that I have an abstract that I'm trying to write for a conference. I've been working on it for a few days and now the deadline has approached (due tomorrow) and I'm still not done. I've got my notes written, but I need to formulate it into a cohesive piece of writing. My mind is so not there. Still, I gotta force it out of me - right after I write this blog post (I'm such a procrastinator!)

The stress, anxiety, and exhaustion were getting to me. I knew that if I didn't get some rest then tonight's CrossFit session would be a pain. I ended up taking a nap and definitely felt better, but I know that what I really need is a good, good night's sleep! Anyway.

To the Box for our last workout until after the Eid holiday.

Today was the Advanced class and it consisted of 2 WOD's.

WOD #1: Target - complete 5 minutes of alternating 10 kettle bell swings (10 kg/22 lbs.) and 10 burpees - Doesn't sound like much, but OMG. I only got to 4 min 15 sec :( I just couldn't go anymore. I find it so difficult to catch my breath after the burpees. I was disappointed, and I really kept telling myself to push more ... I just didn't have it in me today.

WOD #2: 30 min (30 sec work/10 sec rest)
Push press (20 kg/44 lbs.)
Reverse burpees
Cleans (20 kg)
Hand-release push ups

We ended up doing 5 rounds of each group of exercises

Once again I'm reminded about how much getting through the workout is based on mental preparation. Hearing that there will be 2 WOD's was intimidating; seeing that the second WOD would last 30 minutes was even more intimidating ... I kept telling myself, ignore it. Just do the work. Time is irrelevant. Just keep going. Just keep going!

I got through the WOD. I tried my best. I was definitely tiring towards the end, but I kept trying to give it my all. Just gotta keep it in mind and hope to see improvements with each future workout!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eating Habits

"Each meal is a new opportunity to eat nutritiously" - Women's Health

This quote came up on my Twitter feed earlier today - what a great quote. Every second of our day is a chance to make a change, to do something different, to finally take action towards reaching those goals that we really, really want to reach ... and we all really, really want to get healthy, right?

Messed up on breakfast? Don't mess up on lunch. Messed up on lunch? Don't mess up on dinner.

The downward spiral can be deadly. You have to be in control -- and that's one of the great things about eating habits - we are in control of what we choose to eat. Nobody is ever forcing us to eat a chocolate bar, bag of chips, a deep-fried meal. Those are entirely our choices - and with such choices are consequences. Don't let a cheat/special occasion meal turn into a cheat day (or worse yet, couple of days, a week, or more). 

I understand about the struggle with food. I've been there for years. I'm still there, but I think I'm finally smartening up. I still falter with choices, and I know that I have a really hard time resisting junk food if it's in the house. Luckily, there's a simple solution to that - don't bring that junk in the house! It's amazing how you think of healthy alternatives to soothing those hunger pains when you don't have ingredients like cheese, butter, sugar in the house (let alone pre-packaged foods that are full of sodium and other preservatives).

I didn't cut foods out of my diet, but I changed my diet drastically. I never said to myself, 'Don't eat any chocolate.' I just didn't eat it - it wasn't about restricting myself or as some like to put it, depriving myself - it was just about making better choices.

Each time the number on the scale doesn't go down I know that I have to make better choices. Each time I struggle with my workouts - whether it's running, pilates, swimming, or CrossFit, I know I have to reexamine what I eat.

Food = Fuel

Eating healthy foods will help me have better workouts -- and having better workouts makes me feel happy, strong, and confident - who can say that those are things they don't want? That's a positive upward spiral I want to be on!

I just want to make smarter choices each day - with each meal. So, to take that ambition to another level, today I registered with the International Sports Science Association for a Fitness Nutrition Certification course. We all know the basics of healthy eating (Eat This, Not That should be common sense), but I want to know more. Plus, I gotta know what I'm talking about if I'm going to 'preach' about it ... and if I'm going to 'preach' about it, you better believe I gotta practice it!

Let's see how it goes!

Another CrossFit session today - my right quadricep muscle was still quite achy from the squats I did on Sunday and Monday -- but had to push through.

5 minutes of jump rope - getting better at those double-unders, though still haven't managed any in a row yet
3 rounds of 10 full-body squats/10 burpees

Strength Skill: Squats
Overhead Squats: The overhead squats kicked my ass today. I just didn't feel focused and my legs felt wobbly. I managed to go up to 40 kg (88 lbs.) but really struggled; I was much better at 35 kg (77 lbs.)
Front Squats: I managed to reach a new PR of 65 kg (143 lbs.) - for me the toughest part of this exercise is keeping my elbows high; plus the bar is heavy on my collarbone - I have a feeling I may have a bruise or two tomorrow
Back Squats: Another new PR for me - 75 kg (165 lbs.)

Even though I did well, I couldn't help but feel disappointed in the overhead squats. I know I can lift that weight, but I just couldn't put the movement together -- still, trying to focus on the positives -- I'll get there if I keep working at it.

WOD - As many rounds as possible in 10 min
30 crunches
20 push ups
100 jump rope skips
15 pull ups
15 ring pull ups (not sure of the name)

Another good day at the CrossFit Q8 Box!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Accountability: \ə-ˌkau̇n-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ (n) - an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one's actions [Merriam-Webster's Dictionary]

I read the word accountability all the time in blog posts about weight loss. Many people use their blog as a way to stay accountable for what they did/did not eat and how much they did/did not exercise. 

For the most part, accountability has simply been reflected as - I ate X, I wrote it down/acknowledged it. Therefore, I have made myself accountable. 

What I don't understand in statements like that is - Where is the responsibility? More importantly, what are the consequences? 

Simply writing something down or admitting that something 'wrong' has been done is not enough, especially when the action goes completely against what is needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Being accountable means that there have to be consequences for actions. Otherwise, it's just words on a page; once that page is turned, those words are often forgotten. Then all of a sudden there is the big question of - How did I get here? Why hasn't my plan worked? 

It's usually because there were no consequences. 

I spent quite a bit of time tracking my food - weighing/measuring/obsessively taking notes of what I ate. Sometimes I ate food that wasn't bad for me. I felt like shit having to write that down -- but more than just writing it down, I told myself that if I went over my limits, then there would be consequences. 

Going over my calorie limit meant doing an extra X minutes at the gym; eating a certain type of food meant doing 100 jumping jacks, etc. 

Of course there was no one to enforce these consequences on me, but I guess being honest with oneself is just part of being an adult. 

I hated the consequences. I found it so much easier to just NOT eat something that was bad for me or eat too much. I think that's how my approach to food changed, and of course, it's all been to my benefit.

Did I falter? Of course I did. Were there consequences - more often than not. 

The idea of responsibility and consequences needs to go hand in hand with accountability. It's not just about saying what you did, it's about taking action about it. 

One burger = 500 sit-ups
One soda = 100 jumping jacks

etc. etc.

You've got to do something about the choices that are made -- this is the same with reward. You can't reward yourself if you haven't done the work. Moreover, the reward should definitely NOT be food, especially when you're trying to lose weight. There are so many other things that can bring joy and happiness -- and before you start thinking about how expensive those other types of rewards are -- just think of how costly it is to be eating junk food and not exercising. 

For the past week, I've been weighing myself every morning. I just want to see the number keep going down, even if it's by 1 gram. I know that weight varies on a daily basis. I'm not doing this to obsess over the number. I'm doing it because I want to be more aware of my body - what I'm eating and how it's having an impact.

If the number goes up, I have to ask myself:
- What did I eat the following night?
Sometimes I've eaten right, but I've still gained a few grams. I know that some foods, like hummus, sit really heavily in my stomach. What do I do, I don't eat it at night anymore. If I want hummus, I'll have it during the day. 

Sometimes, however, the weight gain might be because I've had something unhealthy to eat. I'm glad to  say that hasn't happened over this past week. However, I know that if I did eat unhealthily, it will show. Even if for some reason it doesn't show on the scale, it'll show in my energy level, my sleep pattern, or somewhere. 

I guess that's the point -- whether you write it down or not, whether you are really 'accountable' or not, your body will reveal the truth. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Bit of Positivity

I enjoy getting ready for my workouts.

I like choosing my workout clothes - kinda boring, usually a black t-shirt and black/grey/dark purple capris, but I have a much more fun collection of sneakers :) - and then packing up my gym bag. I try to have these things ready several hours before my workout so that I don't have to rush just before leaving the house and risk forgetting something, or worse yet, run so late that I miss my workout.

I used to approach going to CrossFit with a lot of apprehension. As I would drive to the Box my heart would race and I would feel so nervous - Will I be able to succeed today? What if the WOD is something that I just can't accomplish? Will I fail?

Over time, the anxiety has lessened, and now, I look forward to each challenge. I used to think that if I knew what the WOD would be from beforehand, then I'd be able to mentally prepare. Now, I'm glad I don't know. The mystery is part of the fun.

Just before the WOD I still feel nervous though, but it's being channeled in a much more positive way than one of negative thoughts. I try not to think about not completing or not being able to do the workout. Instead I tell myself that I can. Even if I'm slow, I can do it ...

It's still taking some practice, but I definitely feel like I'm gaining control over my mental blocks.

Our warm-up today was 250 jump rope skips. Some of the girls started doing double-unders and I thought to myself, 'Man, I really want to do those! When will I be able to do it?' I picked up my jump rope and started to jump and then gave a double under a go -- fully expecting the rope to lash at my shins as it has always happened in the past - but suddenly, the rope went under my feet a second time!

I was so shocked I gasped aloud and said - OMG, I did it!

I had to stop and laugh a bit (as did the other girls) as it truly did catch me off guard. Did I really do that or was it in my imagination? The true test will be to do it again ... and I did! I still haven't been able to do them in a row, but I did do 12 today ... and that's 12 more than I've ever done!

I'm still grinning!

Seeing the sudden accomplishment when you weren't expecting it gives me such a high!!

Our WOD today was 21-15-9 reps of thrusters (deep squat and then pushing the bar to an overhead press) followed by sprint burpees (sprint in place for 10 sec and then drop to a burpee, repeat for the reps).

When we did FRAN back in June, I did the thrusters with a 20 kg (44 lbs.) and it was tough ... today I moved up to 30 kg (66 lbs.) for the thrusters ... OMG - really, really tough. I had to really, really focus and think positively each time I went towards the bar. I tried to block everyone around me out and just focus on finishing the exercise. It was brutal, but I did it and I felt great after finishing that WOD!

The 'After Party' was 3 rounds of 15 crunches, 15 side-to-side planks, and 15 leg presses.

I left a lot of sweat on that gym floor tonight -- and left the Box with a huge smile on my face :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

SSSD Challenge Update and Week 11 Goals

I've kinda been missing in action from the challenge for the past two weeks because I've been away. I totally missed out on the Week 9 No Sugar challenge - not intentionally, I just hadn't checked what the challenge for the week was.

Although I hadn't set out a specific fitness goal for week 10, I'd say my overall vacation goal/fitness challenge was to not gain weight while I was away ... so of course coming back with a 6 lb. loss ... and adding another 2 lb. loss since I've been back home has made me quite happy. Seeing the numbers drop has definitely kept me more focused and motivated than before to just keep on going. Though I still have quite a ways to go, I'm getting closer and closer to my goal - I don't want to do anything to detract from it.

Earlier this week I made a huge stir-fry and have been using it to supplement my meals. It's been quick and easy and it's full of lots of good stuff:

I'll post the recipe for it later. I've been adding bits of it to egg whites to make an egg white scramble as my pre-CrossFit meal. It gives me a good dose of protein and veggies. Sometimes I've just been having it plain or with some Greek yogurt to balance out the spiciness. There are other times when I had it with a slice of toast and sometimes along side a lettuce/tomato salad. All in all, having such a big batch of veggies prepared has saved me from mindless grazing - the food is prepared; it is all healthy - I don't really need to worry about portions, though I've still been careful.

I usually take a few days to adjust to being back after vacation and don't start working out for 3-4 days after returning. This time I just took a day to rest and do all those post-travel errands and then got back into it. I was actually planning on taking today off, but then our CrossFit coach texted us about meeting up for a workout. We met at a mall near my place. I thought we were just going to power walk, but boy was I wrong!

Our workout involved walking, jogging, sprinting, running up and down flights of stairs with push-ups, walking lunges, squats, and ab twists thrown in. We did start doing 'box' jumps on the ledge of one of the fountains until security started to approach to shoo us away! ;)

I've been learning the choreography for Body Pump, so after I got home D allowed me to practice 2 tracks with him. We did the warm-up + squat track (150 squats!!) - and after that, I was totally wiped out!

So exercise has been good for me - eating has been really good too (tried another new recipe today - salmon burger on a portobello mushroom - oh so good! Again, will post the recipe soon!)

My goals for this week: Keep it up!!
This week's challenge: Reflect on the past 10 weeks and show your weight loss in food -- will do this at the end of the week :)

This week's challenge comes at a good time for me. I feel like I'm really on a roll with my food and exercise. I've had to make a few adjustments mainly due to the focus I'm giving CrossFit. The main struggle I'm still having is with sleep. Last night I only got 4 hours. I really, really want to get at least 6 hours of sleep. It shouldn't be difficult ... but it is. I find myself waking up after an hour or two and then unable to get back to sleep ... I've actually been trying to take afternoon naps, especially on CrossFit days because I really do need the extra rest and recovery time.

There are only 3 weeks left of the challenge, and though I'll be traveling next week, I still hope that I can be a better participant! I've been trying to catch up on commenting on blog posts, but there have been so many! Hopefully I'll be able to catch up this week!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sorting Things Out

Today I actually sat back down at my desk and did a bit of work. I've got a bit of research on Kuwait that I need to get through plus a few conference abstracts that I need to work on. It felt strange to be back into study mode, but after such a long break, it felt good too.

My apartment looks like a suitcase factory exploded in it -- with another trip in about a week, my luggage hasn't been put away plus I'm adding more pieces as I'm taking things over for my parents. Packing for this trip is going to be a nightmare - and right now my room reflects it! It's starting to make me feel a bit anxious. I've started organizing it a bit, but it's going to take a few days to get it all sorted out.

Nothing like a good CrossFit session to help de-stress!

Warm-up: 3 rounds
15 burpees
15 crunches
15 hand-release push-ups
15 full body squats

Strength training - front squats (5,4,3,2,2,1) - my last rep was 50 kg, but it wasn't my max

WOD: AMRAP within 10 minutes
10 deadlifts (I lifted 40 kg, but I really should have done 50 kg)
10 hanging leg raises
10 hand-release push-ups

I managed to start my 10th round before time was called.

I tried to push myself a bit harder today. I just want to make sure I see some improvement with each session - even if it's a small improvement. There are some girls in the group who are so incredibly strong and fast ... it's intimidating at times but also motivating. If I want to see the results, I've got to do the work! No excuses.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Facing Fears

I'm a person who has a lot of fears, worries, anxieties, and stresses.

I think these manifest themselves through my insomnia, jumpiness, panic attacks, and OCD. I also think these feelings and insecurities have caused me to develop a lack of belief in myself - particularly because I'm afraid that I'll either fail at the task or I'll get hurt in the process.

Feeling afraid and anxious is tiring and depressing.

I reached a point - I'm not really sure what triggered it - and decided that enough was enough. Step by step I was going to try and tackle these insecurities.

One of my biggest fears was of water - large bodies of water. The expanse of the ocean scared me, and the idea of swimming around, not knowing where the bottom of the ocean was and with all those fish and other sea creatures swimming around with me, terrified me. Seeing JAWS pushed me over the edge.

My fear grew to the point where even the sound of waves made me feel anxious. To this day, deep water still scares me, and any body of water - even swimming pools - is automatically checked for sharks - I just can't help it. I do it every time. Every time.

A few years ago, I decided to try and get over this fear - so what did I do? I enrolled for scuba diving classes. I went to the classes, read all the material, took each lesson seriously -- and even though during my qualifying dives all I could envision was a shark with it's jaws open waiting to swallow me whole, I did it. I completed my 4 dives. My instructor was phenomenal as was my diving buddy. They never got impatient with me and were there to help me stay calm and celebrate my successes.

I obviously still have some work to do, especially since it's been so long since I got my certification, but I'm getting there. In Italy, I couldn't bring myself to swim in the sea - but I did walk in the water and the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks made me feel relaxed instead of tense ... baby steps.

One of my other huge fears is of dogs.

This fear was passed on to me by my mother - her fear plus two bad experiences as a child pushed my fear to complete phobia. The sight of a dog a long distance away would cause my pulse to start racing and I'd start shaking. Dogs coming near me would send me into a screaming frenzy followed by a full on anxiety attack. I couldn't help it.

What would really, really piss me off is how most people reacted to this phobia of mine. Not only could they not understand it, there were many people who would say - You'd love my dog. You won't be afraid of it.

That's not how phobias work. They're irrational fears. I wish that I wasn't afraid, but at that point in time, I was. So many people tried to push me onto meeting their dogs - convinced that theirs would cure me. They just pissed me off even more, showing absolutely no respect or consideration for something that was a major issue for me.

I think it's because of people's reactions to my fear that it took me quite some time to even begin to think of getting over it. I felt like I was being forced or pressured because I was crazy for not liking dogs. What can I say? Not all dogs are friendly. Not all babies are cute. Fact. (People forcing me to hold their babies also pisses me off.)


A year and a half ago I decided to try and face this fear. It started with me not avoiding dogs. Usually if I saw a dog coming my way, I'd cross the street. So I started by not crossing the street - just standing there and ignoring the dogs.

I did alright, and I was definitely put to the test in Argentina earlier this year where there were dogs everywhere!! I totally impressed my friends who had yet to see me be so calm around dogs - especially D, who may still have traces of my fingernail indentations after a particular dog incident in Boston several years back!

Anyway -- let me get to the point (finally) -- One of KD's friends in Italy had 3 dogs. When we went over to her house, she had already put the dogs away, which was the first sign to me that she acknowledged my discomfort and wasn't going to force me to meet her dogs. She had a very calm demeanor which played a big role in her amazing therapy work with horses ... I automatically felt comfortable around her and thought, right - maybe during this trip I'll really be ok around dogs. Part 1 would be to be ok around the dogs, and part 2 - if I felt ready enough, then I would actually pet the dogs.

We went to the horse stables where KD's friend worked - there were lots of dogs around. Everyone was so great around me - keeping a watchful eye on both the dogs and myself, ready to step in if it got too much for me.

The first step - getting used to the dogs. This one below, Otto, seemed to take an immediate liking to me as he hardly left my side the whole time I was at the stables:

After about an hour, I thought I was ready - though I was still slightly hesitant ...

Success!! Contact made!!

I even got comfortable enough to actually fully sit down. This was a huge deal. I was completely vulnerable - there was even a time when there was a dog behind me, but I didn't flinch. That never would have happened a year ago!!

Some other dogs came in to get some affection:

While they were all cute, Otto was my favorite :)

If you've never had a phobia, you may not get what a huge deal this was for me -- but conquering this fear was a major accomplishment. It was one more step in me taking control of my life. I was very, very proud of myself!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


When D picked me up at the airport and said 'Wow, you look like you've lost weight,' I was pleased but I thought he was just being kind. That's what husbands are supposed to say, right?

Today, when I went to the CrossFit Box and lots of people commented on me looking like I lost weight, I definitely believed it more. I know that the scale showed a loss, but still, it always feels better when people notice and comment -- so that, plus the fact that I bought 2 dresses today, both a size smaller than what I wore just 4 months ago, I was happy :)

As I was making a big veggie stir fry today (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, peas, and a sprinkling of corn and jalapeno peppers - so good!), I started to reflect more on my food and how I still need to do so much work on eating more clean and getting more protein.

I've been catching up on blogs and I noticed a lot of posts about people falling off the wagon in terms of their dieting and exercise routine or making unhealthy choices and complaining about weight gain and several posts discussing the idea of cheat meals/days along with the idea of not depriving oneself of eating foods they like (but also not seeing any weight loss results).

After reading several posts related to these themes, I started to feel a bit guilty of what I may have implied or what could be misinterpreted from my post about my trip to Italy.

I was thrilled that I lost 6 lbs while being away on vacation.

The food I ate, however, was not food that I would normally eat. I don't want it to be interpreted that I ate tons of pizza and pasta because I wanted to gorge on those types of foods and I couldn't resist them. I also don't want it to be assumed that just because I lost some weight I think that I can continue to eat in this manner and continue to lose weight.

I knew going into my holiday that my dinners were going to be heavier than normal. With that in mind, I was careful about what I ate during the day - often just having fruit, a bowl of cereal, or a salad. Occasionally if I thought my dinner would be on the lighter side, I'd have a sandwich for lunch. I also think that not having any munchies - no chocolates, crisps, fries, etc. - made a big difference as I know in the past I tended to graze on these foods.

The daily activity plus good nights of sleep also helped a lot.

I'm also aware that part of this weight loss is probably loss of muscle rather than fat - not really something that I'm happy about, but hopefully I'll be able to build that back soon.

Anyway. I guess my point is that I think my improved eating and exercise habits really helped me avoid any gain over my holiday. If I hadn't made those changes (that have been taking place over several months) then I don't think I would have been as 'lucky' with losing a few pounds.

I don't want my food choices to be interpreted as saying - Yes, you can eat pizza and ice cream on a daily basis and still lose weight.

I mean, yes that's kinda what happened, but that's really not the kind of message I wanted to send. It's about long-term healthy choices and an active lifestyle that can help off-set any indiscretions that just might happen (not planned for in advance)!

Anyway. I hope that made sense. I guess reflecting on what I ate is really bothering me -- but it's back to the grind now!!

Today I went to CrossFit. Boy was I nervous as I hadn't done any training - push ups, squats, jump rope - as I had planned to do while in Italy. Still, I think I did rather well.

10 squats, 10 push ups, 10 crunches

Skills: 5 rounds @ 10/8/6/5/4/3/3/3 reps of
pull-ups (I did the last half with a lighter resistance band, yay!)
tricep dips
hanging leg raises

WOD: 5 rounds
100 jump rope (still can't do double unders, ugh!)
10 burpees -- repeat until the 5 rounds are completed
{man I was out of breath!}

Strength: 3 rounds
6 reps squats (40 kg/88 lbs)
20 hollow crunches

It felt really good to be back at the Box. My upper body already feels sore from the push ups, pull ups, and hanging leg raises. I've only got a few more classes to take advantage of until I travel (yes, again). Each time I go to CrossFit I am reminded about how important it is to watch what I eat. I mean, I know it's important anyway, but I really do think that choosing the right foods and eating them in the right portion plus at the right time will help me improve my CrossFit performance. I just have to keep tweaking my foods and hope that I find an eating plan that works for me soon!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Easing into It

I don't understand how being away in a country that is only 1 hour behind Kuwait has still resulted in some form of jet lag. I always feel it when I return from London too (2 hrs behind Kuwait). Perhaps it's not so much the time difference as it is the travel.

On my last day in Italy I only slept for 2 hours the night before, had a 1.5 hr journey to the airport, the flight from Ancona to Rome (45 min), 5 hour layover, Rome to London, 3.5 hour layover, then the flight from London to Kuwait (5.5 hrs). I managed to sleep a little on the plane, but definitely not enough.

This morning, I did not want to get out of bed. Although I really had no reason to get up - no work to go to, no major errands to run - I knew that I'd feel better if I got back into some sort of routine.

My main task of the day was to fix up my menu for the week and buy groceries.

My mind didn't seem to want to function though. I couldn't decide what I wanted to get, and I just couldn't figure out my menu. Still, I made a few notes and headed off to buy lots of veggies and some fish (plus poultry/meat for D). I felt better once the fridge was stocked!

I normally wait 3-4 days before getting back into my exercise routine. My body needs time to adjust to being back plus there is always so much that needs to be done around the house.

Today, however, I asked D if he wanted to go for a walk. I knew that if we stayed home we would only end up napping (he's getting over jet lag from being in Chile for the past 2 weeks) and throwing off our sleep schedule even more. So, despite it being 45 degrees outside (113 F) and not being able to drink water outside because it is the Islamic month of Ramadan (more on that in another post) - he agreed and we headed out for a short 2 km walk. It wasn't much, but we both felt better for being outside. I'm definitely craving fresh air after being spoilt with it in Ancona!

Dinner - grilled salmon + salad. Yum! It feels good to be back in the kitchen again though strange not to have any pasta for dinner, haha :)

Back from Italy

I'm finally back from one of the best holiday's I've had in a LONG time. It was definitely different because I didn't travel with D. I've also never traveled on my own to a new country (I'm not counting places in the US or UK because I feel quite at home there). Still, I found it very therapeutic, and being surrounded by so much history and beautiful scenery and architecture ... didn't have a problem at all! Plus I found the Italians to be so friendly, and the charm of the city seemed to rub off on all the people around, tourists and locals, which kept everyone smiling and laughing.

The one thing I found with Rome was that I was so enchanted and overwhelmed with the history of the city that I felt no photos could really do it justice. Still, I did take lots of photos - here are a few:

Il Colosseo -- The Colosseum was truly colossal!!

Fontana di Trevi - The Trevi Fountain was really spectacular. The only drawback was that there were SO many tourists around blocking the steps down to the fountain. Still, I fought my way down and made a wish!

The buildings, alleyways, and arches of the city were lovely!

My hotel was at the top of the Spanish Steps -- a place that was always buzzing with activity!

I spent a whole day in Vatican City - absolutely loved it!

Standing in the middle of the piazza, walking into St. Peter's Basilica, and then climbing to the top [hundreds of steep stairs -- OMG, it was tough!] - still, the view was so worth it!! You can read about it more here. I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic, but the narrowness of the stairway was overwhelming. I think there should have been a warning, especially as there was no way to get out of it once you started your climb to the top.

Waiting in line to get into St. Peter's Basilica:

On the roof - but not at the top yet! 

The view from the top of Cupola - magnificent!: 

I'm glad I had allocated an entire day for Vatican City, because the Vatican Museums themselves needed hours. With all my studying and the general frantic-ness of my life, I had forgotten my love for history, literature, and art ... it was all revived as I walked through the halls of the museum - surrounded by the works of Raphael and Michelangelo -- who wouldn't be inspired? I was really emotional as I walked through those halls.

Of course, the ultimate goal was to get to the Sistine Chapel. They didn't allow photos to be taken, and although many people were sneaking out their cameras and taking photos, I couldn't do it - besides, how can a photo on an iPhone really capture the greatness of Michelangelo's masterpieces?

I spent 45 minutes sitting in the Sistine Chapel. I had a book that discussed the artwork of the chapel, so I read the pages as I admired the work. I couldn't believe I was there - standing under the Creation of Adam ... It was my favorite memory of Rome.

After 4 days in Rome, I flew to Ancona.

My trip to Le Marche (in Ancona) was at a very different pace - and totally new scenery for me. I had never been so 'isolated' before. I was surrounded by rolling hills, endless greenery, and lots of fresh air - all things I sorely miss when I'm in Kuwait.

One of my favorite days was a visit to an antique fair held in Fermo. The vibe was fantastic. Music playing, people laughing ... everyone just so relaxed. The setting was so beautiful.

Me and KD in Fermo:

I didn't stop smiling during my entire stay in Le Marche. It was fabulous!

So, what about my health?

Upon returning, I have to say I felt a bit bloated. I definitely think it's from all the carbs from the pizza and pasta - and it truly was either pizza or pasta every single night! I also had a gellato every single day. One major difference to this holiday was that I didn't munch during the day. I didn't have any crisps; I only had 6-7 fries on one night; I didn't eat between meals ...

Also, in terms of exercise, it was a fail in terms of getting structured exercise in - I didn't go to the gym in the hotel nor did I do any outdoor runs like I had planned.

I did, however, walk A LOT. I walked for at least 5-6 hours each day in Rome.

In Ancona, I either swam (it was so serene):

Or I went for walks along the water's edge in the sand (did that 3 times, for a total of 2 hours walking each time; one time in knee deep water - very challenging and great for my legs!). Walking in the water/sun has made me 50 shades of darker brown ;)

KD is our body pump instructor and she had the latest release with her. She gave me the choreography notes to learn and music to listen to -- we did some body pump together at her house one day, and I taught a track. It was so much fun! I've got the notes and music with me here so my goal is to have it all learned by the time she gets back so I can actually lead the whole session.

Another major difference to my life in Kuwait is that I was able to fully relax. I caught up on my sleep. I felt absolutely no stress. For a whole week I had no Internet; I didn't watch any TV. I read a lot - for fun for a change!! There was no city pollution or even stale air from air conditioning - only fresh air, fresh, locally grown/produced food, and pure nature around me ... I think it really, really helped. I honestly feel like it was the first time I relaxed in years.

A sample of the scenery:

So, there were pool swims, beach walks, a bit of body pump, lots of relaxation ...

... and of course tons of shopping (hey, it counts as a workout)! :) [Only 4 new pairs of shoes ;)]

I was very, very pleased to have stepped on the scale and seen a 6 lb. loss! :) There were times when I was worried about all the food and lack of structured exercise, but I think all the other activity and rest helped balance it all out!

I also had one other major achievement - but I'll save that for my next post.

I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone else's blogs!