Fourth Sunday Status Update

It’s Status Update Sunday! More to the point, it’s Fourth Status Update Sunday, aka full-on weigh, measure, and photo Sunday. At least, it was Sunday when I weighed, measured, photo’ed, and started writing this post. Then life happened and we decided to go on a hike, which turned into an adventure, and now it’s Monday. But still.

Weekly update first, then monthly.

I did great this past week in terms of both food and exercise. Carbs low, calories low-ish, protein high-ish, no manufactured food. I’m also cutting further back on processed meats like ham, pepperoni, and yes, bacon. In the interest of building/maintaining muscle mass, for the past 10 days I’ve been leaning especially hard into pushing my workouts, trying for more on every lift every time, and that’s going really well. My big victory this week is having successfully increased the weight on my ongoing nemesis, squats. Yes! I’ve also started trying to use curtsy lunges more as HIIT rather than a strength move. We’ll have to see how that goes moving forward.

We did two hikes this week, both this weekend, not long, but super fun. It hailed on us on Sunday’s hike, and we ultimately ended up turning back before we’d intended when the trail became so icy that it was a bit dangerous. Too bad, because the area was so pretty! It was quite open compared to most of the surrounding area, and much of the ground was covered with huge ferns. We saw several charred roots and bare evergreens, so we’re thinking the area may have burned several years ago. So interesting! Can’t wait to explore it more when my mini-spikes (snow chains for your boots, basically) arrive.

So, on to the four-week assessment. First week was great for diet, but the second and third were not as good, and then the fourth was very good again. My weight is down three pounds overall for the month, which is pretty perfect given that my primary goal is to lower my body fat percentage rather than my overall weight. My measurements are also down, but since they were oddly larger than what seemed reasonable the first week, I’ll use the second week’s more expected measurements for comparison, from which my bust and waist are down 1/2 inch each and my hips and thighs are down 1/4 inch. Happily, waist measurement dropping more than hip measurement is usually an indicator that one is losing more fat than muscle, so things are looking good there.

When trying to lower one’s body fat percentage, thought, real progress shows most in photos. I can definitely see that I’m a bit smaller, but I’m not sure that I can see increased leanness. With any luck, there will be a more obvious change at the end of March. Since the change is so small, I’m just posting one angle this time. I’ll post more in four weeks.Overall, I did pretty well with both diet and workouts in February, substantially better during the last 10 days of the month. I feel like I’m finally on a roll, that the strength gains (hopefully muscle gains) and adherence to diet will continue more smoothly in the upcoming four week period.

Here’s to a joyful, healthful, successful March for all of us!

Dead Hangs For Life

I have scoliosis. My mother discovered it while watching me in ballet class when I was 16. She noticed my shoulders seemed oddly lopsided, so she took me to the doctor, where I was diagnosed with mild to moderate scoliosis. It hasn’t ever really given me any trouble, but I try to keep my back and core strong and my back stretched, to minimize the possibility and maximize the other posture work I do.

That’s why I finish every workout with a dead hang. I do modified dead hangs, actually, since true dead hangs, hanging entirely from your hands with no other muscle engagement, is very hard on your shoulder joints and can even lead to dislocated shoulders. To combat the risk, I simply engage my shoulder muscles, then consciously relax everything else, breathe slowly and evenly, and allow gravity to do its good work, stretching my spine, gently aligning my hips and shoulders. It’s not a cure for scoliosis by any means, but it definitely helps keep my spine as straight and stretched and comfortable as it can be.

And dead hangs aren’t just good for your spine. When done with the shoulder muscles engaged, they strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joints, which are tricky to strengthen via other means. They also train grip strength, which is especially beneficial for most women, as we tend to have weaker hands than men. Since I started doing them regularly several years ago, I have yet to meet a jar I can’t open!

Are there any specific stretches you particularly enjoy, or that you do to help combat specific body issues? Do tell! I’d love to know what you do and how it’s working for you.

Three Week Status Update

Happy Sunday! It’s status update day. I’ve made good progress on some things, and have more work to do on others.

Food is where I need work. I made some adjustments to make sure I was getting enough protein, and to try not to keep my calories so low that I started losing noticeable amounts of strength. I went too far, though, and didn’t lose any weight at all in the past two weeks. This is where recomposition is hard. It’s possible that I’m losing fat and gaining muscle, and so not losing weight. Without taking measurements and photos, though, it just leaves me feeling that I’m making no progress. I think I might have to bite the bullet and deal with not making any strength gains, or maybe even losing a bit. The good news is that I kept my carbs low and protein higher, and didn’t snack on protein bars, and I kept it keto when we went out to dinner with a friend Thursday night.

Workouts, on the other hand, were great! Previously, I’d been trying to let myself come back easy from losing strength while I was sick, but this week I pushed myself harder, really put in the effort to make gains. I ended up adding weight, reps, and/or sets to every lift, and adding back a couple more accessory lifts. I also added an extra workout, for a total of three upper body and three lower body! I did more yoga at the end of my workouts, as well. It’s been very cold and even snowing a bit, so we only got in one hike, but I did some walking to the shops to run errands and to a doctor’s appointment. I only meditated on four occasions, but am looking forward to fitting in more of that in the coming week.

Next week is measurements and photos week. I don’t expect much, but maybe I’ll surprise myself! I do have a good, solid plan in place for the coming week, and for March.

I also got a tripod, so I hope to start adding more workout posts to the blog, and maybe ever trying out some videos. Stay tuned!

Two Week Status Update

It’s Status Update Sunday again already! Actually, the week felt long and luxurious and lovely to me. The Handsome Hubby took the whole week as vacation as a Valentine’s surprise for me, and we had a great time! We spent the first half of the week at home stay-cationing, then spontaneously set off on adventures for the second half of the week.

Despite the chocolate-centric holiday on Wednesday and traveling Thursday through Saturday, I did well with my diet. I’m sure I got more calories than I strictly needed on a few days, especially the two when we did some wine tasting, but I kept my carbs low and my protein on track.

While we were away, we stayed in a sweet cozy yurt on a sheep farm. It had a full kitchen, so I was able to cook some of our meals there. It snowed unexpectedly the day we were leaving and we got stuck on the pass for a few hours on our return home, but protein bars saved the day. Manufactured food, but good in a pinch!

 

I got in three weight workouts, one upper body, one lower body, and one full body, and we went for three hikes. One of the hikes was away from home, in a very different, much drier climate, with less manicured trails. It included lots of bush-whacking and some stream fording, and actually ended when we got to a place where the brambles were so thick that there was no indication of whether there had ever been a trail there. It was challenging and fun, and I’m excited to go back there in spring when the desert is blooming, and take on the ridge trail.

I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed your week and are looking forward to the next. I sure am! I have several new recipes waiting in the wings, plus other good subjects to share. Onward!

 

One Week Status Update

It’s Sunday; time for a body fat reduction journey status update. And the news is good!

The theory behind this body fat reduction method is that you keep carbs very low to force the body to burn fat rather than glucose (ketosis), then lower dietary fat somewhat to force it to burn existing body fat, while keeping protein fairly high to preserve existing muscle mass. Any weight loss will be comprised of both fat and muscle. Basically, I’m trying to maximize one and minimize the other. So, I’m down two pounds this week. If you’ve ever been overweight, any weight loss feels like a victory, even when it’s not a specific goal. I did a good job keeping my calories low, but had to remind myself a few times that my goal is recomposition, not simple weight loss. Eating too little will be counter-productive. The actual reduction in body fat will be fairly slow, though, so right now, that weight loss feels pretty darned good.

My food intake stayed really good. I focused more on keeping my carbs lower than I had the week before, because when I looked back, I think I’d gotten a little cavalier about them. I continued eating 100% whole, minimally processed foods. No protein bars, but this week, I didn’t miss them. Success!

I was right, too, that my measurements being high last week was a fluke. They’re down to what I’d expect them to be at this weight today. Hopefully, when I measure again in three weeks, we’ll see some real progress.

I got in five excellent workouts this week, three lower-body and two upper-body. I increased the weight on all of my heavy lifts except my nemesis, squats, and on some of my accessory lifts as well. I also added a few accessory lifts back in. The Handsome Hubby and I did fewer evening yoga sessions, but I did a few post-workout ones, so it mostly evened out. I also started meditating before bed again, which I haven’t done in a while. It’s such a great way to relax and reset before the new day.

Speaking of the Handsome Hubby, he surprised me for Valentine’s Day by taking the whole week as vacation! Hopefully, we’ll get in some great hikes and adventures.

I wish you all a glorious week ahead!

Starting Point Stats Day

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’re feeling fantastic today!

I’m feeling much better at this moment than I expected to. Measure-and-weigh days are often down days for me even when the results are better than I’d hoped. I even warned the Handsome Hubby last night that today might be sort of surly for me.

Surprisingly, it’s not. At this moment, I’m cheerful and optimistic for the future, as well as content with the state of me now. This is very strange because, while my weight is normal when I expected it to be higher, my measurements are about an inch bigger all over than they usually are at this weight. I find this curious and confusing, but oddly not upsetting. I’ll probably measure again next weekend to see if there’s any change that might require dietary adjustment. We’ll have to see how I feel at that point. I’m unusually happy with my photos, as well. My butt is flat and dimply as usual, but the rest of me looks surprisingly lean and fit. I’m good with that!

Overview of the week:

I did well with my diet. I’m doing a ketogenic diet with emphasis on protein rather than fat, and eating at a caloric deficit. I wake up a little bit hungrier every morning, and by today I could have eaten a whole cow and 47 pounds of spinach! My plan is to eat at maintenance level for a day every now and then, maybe occasionally for two or three days in a row, to keep myself from going nuts and possibly binging … on nuts! Ha!

I did well with exercise. Got in 5 solid lifting days, 3 upper body and 2 low body. I’m regaining the strength I lost during the end of December and beginning of January, but it’s taking time. Regaining muscle while in a caloric deficit is a bit of a neat trick. Handsome Hubby and I only got in one hike this week, a really beautiful rainy day hike yesterday, but we started doing a bit of yoga every evening, which I’m really loving. It’s helping me wind down at night, which I hope will help me sleep better.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and productive week ahead!

Trick or Treat!

Happy Halloween! Rather than the recipe I’d intended to post today, I decided to play you a trick. Or you might consider it a treat. It’s an exercise. Or, alternatively, a recipe for Dem Abs. It’s the weird-looking and creepily-named Stomach Vacuums!

This is an exercise I learned recently, but it’s actually pretty old fashioned. Body builders in the 70’s and 80’s used it to fine tune their abs and make their waists appear smaller, at a time when a small waist was desirable for even male body builders. It’s an isometric exercise, which means you train the muscle not by moving through a range of motion, but by holding it flexed as fully as possible for as long as possible. It’s still mostly used for fine tuning by people who are already fit and lean but have imperfections in their visible abs due to pregnancy, surgery, or what have you.

I am not yet that fit, lean person with slightly imperfect abs, but once I tried them, I loved them so much that I finish up every workout with them. They strengthen the abs (specifically the transverse abdominis), the lower back, and the pelvic floor. They look deceptively simple, but are actually crazy hard!

As a beginner, start out lying on your back. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor, or couch, or bed, or whatever you feel like lying on. Exhale, and pull your belly button hard toward your spine (i.e., suck it in!), allowing your pelvis to tilt up naturally.If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel a slight pull across the area I’m point to here:You really want to pull in as hard as you can for the entire time. If you can hold your breath, you may, but you can also take very shallow breaths as needed. The goal is to do 3 to 5 of them, holding each for 60 seconds. I do 5 but am currently only able to do 30 seconds. If I’ve gone all out on them, my abs will be surprisingly sore the next day.

Once you can do 3 to 5 60-second reps, try it on all fours. This makes it slightly more difficult by requiring you to work against gravity. You can also do them seated, which is considered the most advanced method.

I hope you all have a spectacularly wicked Halloween, and that no one needs to get their stomach vacuumed. 😉