Monday, August 27, 2012

Answering Comments from the Dark Side Post

I'd like to thank all those who commented on my last post regarding "going over to the dark side". There were some great, insightful comments and much appreciated expressions of concern.

I think that the anguish I expressed was in part due to hormonal issues. At my most recent appointment with the endocrinologist a few weeks ago, she once again reduced my dose of tapazol. I'm now at the lowest dose I can take without going off it completely. This is a very good thing and I was thrilled with the decision to decrease the dose. I have a fantastic doctor who has been lowering my dose in an extremely slow, cautious and measured manner. She's not at all trying to jump the gun. But for about two weeks after the dose was decreased, I felt extremely antsy, nervous and full of angst.

Then there's what seems to be the never-ending peri-menopause saga. Yes, at 56 I'm still getting my period, but it's very irregular now. Last summer, I had lots of hot flashes, to go with the hot summer weather. Once the fall arrived, the hot flashes left and didn't return until a few weeks ago. Now, I'm sitting here drying my brow. All in all, just more hormonal issues to add to the mix.

Of course, my feelings were perhaps not due to hormones at all, but instead due to the fact that I'm starting to work more again after my usual dozy, almost work-free, money-free and lower-stress summer. There's just not a lot of work in my field during the summer and it's always been the time when I recharge my batteries in preparation for a busy fall season.

The run-in I had with one of my colleagues last September has changed me. Some might say that I should just get over it, but certain things, well, no matter how hard you try, they do leave their mark. Just as a total aside, if you're interested in reading an incredible memoir about workplace stress, read Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness by Jan Wong. I will say no more except that I really, really connected with her experience and feelings (minus the death threats of course--but you'll have to read it to find out more!).

Anyway, between the possibility that my body was scrambling to rebalance itself hormonally after the medication reduction, the return of the hot flashes and the stress of having to once again face and work with people I really didn't want to see, I was feeling a lot of angst and that angst was over-projected onto my Fitbit.

Now, I'm feeling somewhat less overwrought and have decided to continue Fitbitting. I have to agree with Debra: I think I've just taken my mindfulness a bit further than I would normally go. The mindfulness is still definitely there and I have not eliminated anything in particular from my diet (diet, as in "what I eat"--my food repertoire). But I do tend to "watch" things more carefully and have greatly reduced what I eat "after" I realize that I'm pretty well full. I have a tendency to have a few apricots, a handful of nuts, maybe a cracker or two that my mouth craves, as opposed to my stomach. These little perfectly healthy extras have decreased greatly.

Yes, I've been "watching" my calories but I'll tell you all one thing: this 1,200 calories a day thing that so many people seem to swear by is--at least as far as I'm concerned--absolutely for the birds. Speaking for myself and no one else, you'll never see me opting for such a low calorie count. Once you get down that low (and I know many people go much lower!), you're setting yourself up for failure. Hey, but that's my opinion and this is my blog. Do whatever your heart desires and I'll do the same.

I appreciate Screaming Fat Girl's advice to not pathologize food tracking. Yes, it's a learning experience. It has indeed shown me how many little extras I was eating. I still love apricots and nuts and the like, I just don't eat quite as many or to satisfy the mouth. I try to stick to satisfying the stomach for the most part. I do not go hungry.

Karen asked, " how do you feel? Deprived? in control? energetic? moody or happy?" Deprived? Not too much. I still eat my 2 pieces of chocolate quite often after supper. In control? I really don't like that idea. Control makes me feel like I'm fighting myself or fighting something that's "wrong" with me. So I won't go near the word "control". Energetic? I think I need a new bed! Seriously, it's on my list of things to get in the next few months. Moody or happy? That has a lot more to do with my work situation and my search for a more meaningful life. Thankfully, it has very little to do with food.

I salute Coramie for dealing with the deep roots of her weight issues and her realization that tracking is not going to solve them. Personally, and despite the fact that my blog is part of the weight-o-sphere" (though no longer a classic weight-loss blog), I think I have a fairly decent relationship with food, all things considered. And for this, I'm extremely thankful.

I so agree with Fat Chick in Lycra that strict calorie counting is a recipe for abandoning real food. That's why I just won't fall for it, hook, line and sinker.

Thank you HikerRD for assuring me that, "Weight change itself is not unethical or something to be philosophically against [...] You're at least being honest with yourself--a major step on the slippery slope! [and advising me to] consider the wise advice you'll, no doubt, receive from your experienced readers!" That's exactly what I'm doing.

Thank you to "Me" for your calorie calculating technique, though I think I'm going to remain loosey-goosey. As for the bodyfat percentage, you're right: you can only detect a real trend over a long period of time. Trying to see a change day over day is just not doable.

And finally, to "hopefulandfree": don't worry. I'm only slightly out of my mind and not all the time, at that! But I do truly appreciate your concern and the concern of all my wonderful e-friends!

And after saying all this: my Fitbit is being a bit testy. I think the battery is malfunctioning and I wasn't able to use it for two days. It worked today and we'll see what tomorrow brings...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Facing the Dark Side

I've been turning this post over in my mind for a good four weeks now--since I started using my Fitbit, in fact. It's going to be a hard one.

I have gone over to the dark side. I have let my inner obsessive-compulsive take the upper hand in my life and I am feeling very conflicted.

I am tracking my food consumption. There, I said it.

Probably, compared to hard-core trackers, my tracking is pretty loosey goosey. And I like it that way. In my opinion, to be a hard-core tracker, you have to give up eating a lot of real food because real food doesn't come in packages with numbers (aka calories) on it. Let me give you an example: I make my own salad dressing. It's fantastic, in my humble opinion, and adds oodles of taste to my salads. The dressing is made up of several ingredients and I make it in an old jam jar or sometimes in a jar that once held Dijon mustard. It contains olive oil, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, a splash of maple syrup or a spoonful of honey, lemon juice, freshly crushed garlic, pepper, a small sprinkle of salt and assorted herbs. Calculating the number of calories per spoonful is possible, but it's way harder than pulling out a bottle of ready-made dressing that's full of preservatives, low on real taste...but has a label on the back with the calorie count.

Oh, and how do I calculate the number of calories in my kitchen-sink salads that contain chicken (or tuna), walnuts, apples (or pears), a handful of raisins, and various veg on a bed of salad greens? The time and obsessiveness required to do so would drive me around the bend. So I "eyeball" and sometimes I'm sure I'm too low, while sometimes I might be too high.

I admit to using a kitchen scale at least once a day, often more frequently.

I find that the obsessive-compulsiveness level is already higher than I feel comfortable with. But I've been doing it for about a month now.

When I got the Fitbit, it seductively asked me if I wanted to lose weight. I fell into its trap, though I could have fallen a lot farther. I decided to see what kind of calorie limit it would give me if I aimed to lose 1/2 pound per week. Not surprisingly, due to my small stature and limited mobility, most days the Fitbit doesn't give me all that much to work with, calorie-wise. It's rather cool though, in that it constantly recalculates the number of calories you "can" eat, based on how much energy you've expended up to that point in the day.

Which leads me to admit to a move into even darker waters. Yes, I've been dabbling in the Nightmare on ELMM Street, aka "calories in - calories out".

And the results? I know you're just dying to find out...

Yes, I've lost weight. And it's more than 1/2 pound a week, though I'm not disclosing any numbers. I have a scale which supposedly gives me fat percentages too and so far, the fat number is wobbling around at best. It literally goes up or down a few percentage points after drinking some water or excreting some solid waste (sorry, TMI). I am terribly afraid of losing muscle, as women my age are prone to do, and as people who are very limited in their exercise abilities such as myself are EXTREMELY prone to do. I cannot afford to lose muscle.

So, all in all, I'm feeling very, very conflicted about what I'm doing. I'm trying not to blame myself for doing something that I am philosophically against. I will not tolerate allowing myself to be hungry. I am quite aware of my honest hunger signals and I continue to respect them. If I continue to lose weight, I might ask my doctor how to go about getting an accurate measurement of my body's fat percentage. As I said before, I cannot afford to lose muscle. No one can.

That's my admission of guilt.

And I can hear the wonderful Debra's evil "bwahaha" echoing in my head.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fitbit, Part Two

Well, aside from when it's been recharging, I've been using my Fitbit religiously for the past two weeks.

I think the best way to discuss the Fitbit is to break down my experience by topic.

Step Counting: Since walking is virtually the only exercise that I can do safely and regularly, I have become a bit of an expert at spotting the weaknesses in various types of pedometers. Many pedometers wildly overcount the number of steps you take. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I've seen pedometers add 15 steps or so just for pulling your pants down to use the facilities. And then add a few more for good measure when you pull your pants back up. These are the hypersensitive pedometers. Then there are pedometers that refuse to count any steps at all if you haven't taken at least ten in a row. Since I have a kitchen the size of a shoe box (nicely renovated, but you won't see it on HGTV because apparently nothing makes the grade on HGTV if it isn't the size of a football field--yes including bathrooms--but I digress), I have been known to clock less than 100 steps while constantly moving around my kitchen for an hour because the space is so small than I'm never taking more than 5-6 steps at a time. Frustrating.

I would rate the Fitbit a wee bit too sensitive. I'm convinced that it's overly generous, though it's more accurate when I work in the kitchen than my other pedometer. I think it also depends on where you wear it on your body. I suspect its accuracy is higher clipped to the middle of my bra than clipped onto my pants.

Stair Climbing: In my house, I'm constantly going up and down stairs between the main floor and the upper floor. The Fitbit seems to accurately count this activity, giving my one staircase point per climb/descent. However, it doesn't seem to register the climb/descent to the basement. I suspect the staircase in question is just too short for the Fitbit to register anything at all. Too bad, but since I'm on the longer staircase between the ground and the upper floor more often, I'm fairly happy with the accuracy. On the other hand, I'm not sure that it will register anything if you only go in one direction on a staircase, for instance if you decide to descend a long staircase by foot in the subway but take the escalator up at your destination. I'll have to check this.

Calories Burned: For people whose goal is to lose weight, I imagine this number is the holy grail. Unfortunately, without some fairly sophisticated equipment, there is no way for me to verify the accuracy of the number of calories the Fitbit says I've burned. Based on my height and weight, the Fitbit has also decided how many calories I should aim to burn in a day if I want to lose 1/2 pound a week. Unfortunately, the Fitbit can't take into account my disabilities and I have rarely been able to hit this number--maybe two or three times over the past two weeks. The paltry number of calories I burn per day leads me to believe that its ability to register calories burned is not too far off the mark. I did do one interesting, though fleetingly short experiment on the elliptical trainer. I did two minutes on the trainer (more and my knee would not let me forget it for days) and compared the number of calories the machine said I'd burned to the number the Fitbit registered. The elliptical gave me around 11, the Fitbit, maybe 3. This confirms what I've always said about machines like the elliptical or the stationary bike: don't believe the numbers they give you. They're designed to make you feel good about yourself, not to give you the truth!

Time Active (Activity Levels): This is one characteristic of the Fitbit that I really appreciate. The Fitbit analyzes your activity according to four levels: sedentary, lightly active, fairly active and very active. I am resigned to the fact that I almost never reach a high level of activity. But it's good to see just how much activity I do get. Recently, husband said jokingly to me that the Fitbit "made me do the laundry" that night and he was right. I felt that I wanted to get a bit more activity in that day and taking care of the laundry was a good way to do something to get me moving but not cause me any pain.

Active Score: I have to admit, this is one characteristic of the Fitbit that I do not fully understand. This is how the active score is defined on the Fitbit site:
The active score captures how active you were compared to if you were completely sedentary all day. Your score will be 0 if you were sedentary, and typically a 3-digit number if you were active.

You may prefer the active score over calories burned, because the active score just captures your level of activity and is not dependent on your height and weight, as calories burned is.

The Active Score is a rough translation of your average METs for the day (METs = Active Score x .001 + 1)

The problem is, I can't find the definition of MET. What I can say is that the Fitbit wants me to reach an active score of 1000 per day. Sorry, but it ain't gonna happen very often. I can thank my back, knee and hip for that. So I just do what I can.

Now, have I really gone over to the dark side?

I will answer that question in my next post.